Here's the first (of, hopefully, many) match reports brought to you by my new blog aid Andrei. Definitely more useful than my latest efforts. Enjoy!
Unsurprisingly, Sabău decided to once again play it safe, this time in stage XI's derby match against CFR Cluj. Knowing that the losing team would be left behind in the championship run, both opponents concentrated on defense. This, however, resulted in a lack of quality, personal errors, many lost balls changing possession midfield, but also individual struggles and duels, all within the limits of fair-play.
The first half was quite balanced, none of the teams having clear chances, except maybe one or two incursions from the speedy Gigel Bucur. Like Thursday's game against Anderlecht, Sabău introduced the same defensive trio - Scutaru, Mera, Nibombe - perhaps not confident enough on the first two, with Cisovsky's absence looking to be prolonged.
In the second part however, Cluj stepped up a bit, clearly dominating our side and had the best chances to score, through long-distance shots (Muresan) and fumbled corner kicks, where the defense didn't manage to clear the ball. Poli's tactics were on the verge of being shattered, when after one such situation, Alcantara blasted the ball from inside the box, but Pantilimon was on one of his great nights, making an incredible save, despite everybody else being sure of the goal.
The match balanced out again, after Traore was sent off for a second yellow card. However, Poli did not have enough courage or inspiration to take advantage of the situation, and beside a few somewhat dangerous long passes and wide shots, there was no clear scoring opportunity. No risks were taken, Parks entered the pitch only to take Bucur's place and the game ended in an undecisive nil-nil. The two teams remained tied for the top spot, but Poli's reputation as having the best defense in the championship gives them advantage on goal difference. However, hard matches are coming next, while Cluj has a (relatively) easy November ahead.
Nibombe played sturdy in defense, and while still showing a few of his weaknesses, gave confidence to his younger, less experienced partners. The Armenian twins played the whole match together. Artiom didn't show signs of being tired, running front and back, engaging in hard duels and showing good motivation. His crosses, unfortunately, are still lacking. His brother, Arman, didn't count enough to make a difference, but the relationship between the two produced a few interesting situations. Brazilian Bonfim once again showed why he makes the team, giving a good fight, and showing his good technique. One of the best players on field. Vrsici was given only 20 minutes to play, and could only be seen in one interception and a shot gone wide.
There are many good and many bad things to be said about the team's play, but what is important is that we are in first place and perhaps more important, that the team and the coach seek to improve for the upcoming matches, which will be decisive, at least for the winter break.
Poli: Pantilimon (7) - Mera (6), Nibombe (6), Scutaru (6) - Bonfim (6,5), Alexa (6), Bourceanu (5,5), Art. Karamyan (6,5) - Chiacu (5), Bucur (5,5), Arm. Karamyan (6)
Vrsici (5) for Alexa (min 70)
Parks for Bucur (min 82)