Well, it just wasn't to be. Poli Timişoara conceded 3-1, after a beautiful game of football, which Michel Platini decided himself to witness. As this was an all or nothing match, Sabău sent in a classical lineup for Poli, at least in the past season: Bucur and Parks upfield, with Magera behind them. Despite the offensive intent, the coach had to come up with some improvisations to cover the weak spots. While captain Alexa played as regular defensive midfielder, his partner, Bourceanu, was sent on the right, a position he was not accustomed to. Artiom Karamyan was moved upward on the left, the spot he is most comfortable with. Despite not convincing before, Maxim had duties to cover his back on the defensive line, while Nibombe and less experienced Scutaru had the responsibility of blocking anything that came in the center of the box.
Hostilities began with a sterile fight for possession, gradually won by the home side, despite a big chance for Poli, when Bucur received a good long pass, rushed in from the side, but his cross was barely deflected by Parks. Anderlecht certainly didn't need the help offered by Nibombe at the half hour mark. Though a sturdy play overall, the Togolese had a few moments of insecurity, including this one, when a 1-2 ball hit him, and instead of clearing, he deflected it to Suarez. Maxim, despite a best effort, couldn't stop him cleanly enough and the referee signaled a penalty. The same Suarez slugged it in - a poor shot, just a bit to the right of the keeper, but Pantilimon dived left.
After the break, our side came in more determined and the equalizer fell in after a brilliant corner kick, which is sort of a rarity for Poli lately. Parks had all the center of the box for himself and was right on with a header to score our first goal in Europa League. Too bad that the other 10 corner kicks weren't so rewarding.
Poli pushed on, with Parks on an excellent night, showing his great technical skills, the best guy on the pitch for us. The tipping point was marked by the substitutions. The invisible Bourceanu came out, to be replaced by Stancu, who in the end would have wished he were not so visible. For Anderlecht, Legear proved to be the winning substitute, with his determined presence upfield. And so it was that in the 67th minute, a cross from him found tiny Boussoufa at the end, with a dreamy Stancu next to him.
Poli became even more dangerous after this, Parks with his wonderful legwork, to open up the strong Belgian defense. A good-looking play, but the ball wouldn't go in and Stancu foiling some passes. Magera had a good shot just a little over the top, and in the extended play, after a cross, substitute Goga pushed the ball in to the box and Scutaru with a very good shot in, deflected over by the keeper. Anderlecht had a couple more counter-attacks, with the final blow given in the 95th minute by the same Legear. A cleared corner kick found him charging from close to the center point all the way to goal with a nice chip over Pantilimon.
3-1 in the end, but Poli gave a good fight, leaving Bruxelles with heads up. Clearly a more decent play than recent games. Just goes to show how much better the game looks when you can have a few more passes in. Other than Parks, Karamyan gave a good show on his flank, offering good passes to his teammates, but also rushing back to recover some useful balls. Magera was more and more into the game as time passed and, while not one of his best, he was there with very useful deflections and passes, and a nice shot for goal. Bonfim didn't shine as much and he could have probably helped defense more, but a good play overall. Nibombe still has some weaknesses and unfortunately they caused us another goal, but he certainly was the pillar of defense on other occasions.
Good game, Poli!