An important event preceded match day 4 of the UEFA Europa League's Group A. Dinamo Zagreb have been deducted 3 points, after the serious incidents caused by the Croatian fans in Timişoara on match day 2, leaving them with no points on last place. Furthermore, their team will play with the remaining two home matches against Ajax and Timişoara behind closed doors. I disprove team standings being decided in offices instead of on the football pitch, and I have to praise the Croatian news media for having an objective point of view on the whole matter. They did not embark to blame Timişoara for the points penalty, instead bash the disruptive minority amongst their fans, who see a football match as an opportunity to cause havoc, instead of to take part in the show. Hooliganism does not belong in the stadiums.
That said, I do not think the penalty favors our side. At least not for the immediate future. Ajax and Anderlecht are 3 points ahead, so our only chances to stay in the game is a victory on Belgian soil on Thursday. The home game showed, to me at least, that they are a team to beat. I am unsure, however, that that was their real form. From the Belgian press's reaction it seemed that Anderlecht came to Timişoara seeking the draw, not pushing for the full 3 points.
In the championship, Anderlecht is doing good, 1 point behind leaders Club Brugge. Their last 3 games ended in a 2-0 victory, after a bitter loss 2-4 against Brugge. In home European matches against Romanian clubs, they have an almost perfect streak (6 wins, one draw, 12 goals against 2). However, in recent European matches, besides a 5-0 win against modest Sivasspor, Anderlecht have a staggering 3 defeats and one draw on home turf in their last 5 matches. A glimmer of hope, perhaps, for our first win in Europe after 19 years minus 2 days, and indeed our first goal in the group stage.
Poli's last games, on the other hand, have meant being thrown out of the Romanian Cup and losing fisrt position, after losing in front of a packed stadium at home. In Europe, the team didn't show that it can stick their heads out of the group stages, despite the historic elimination of UEFA Cup holders Shaktar Donetsk.
That is why Thursday's match can turn the tides and end this miserable streak. Nothing less than a win will do. Anderlecht will probably play defensive, a point basically sealing their qualifying spot. They will try to score on counter attacks, knowing too well that Poli will have to charge forward. Our best bet is to attack, there is no more time for caution. However, any conceded goals would probably mean disaster. It will be very difficult, as Poli has not yet shown it can do the offensive play good enough, only against modest adversaries. Perhaps introducing Magera and Parks would be a good bet, at least in my mind, as they have shown good capabilities in this sort of games.
But the final decision rests in Sabău's hands and I hope it will be a good one. At the end of the night, a 1-0 win, after an own goal, will sound fabulous.