A packed "Dan Păltinişanu" awaited the derby against Steaua Bucharest, drawn to the stadium by lower ticket prices set by the management. However, they only witnessed the first defeat in the championship, after a football match whose quality was as low as the said prices. You only get what you paid for. Lots of goofed balls by both sides, including a hilarious free kick by Dayro Moreno, and a terrible mistake made by Pantilimon were the highlights of the night.
In the first half, the two teams split their dominance over the game. During the initial 20 minutes, Poli set back letting the visitors control the hostilities. But the red-blues couldn't take advantage of this, creating panic only with balls fumbled around in our box. The violets on the other hand, tried to counter-attack with incursions on Artiom Karamyan's flank - most unsuccessful - and by balls dived-in from the midfielders for Bonfim's spurts on the right, which created mild danger. The only real opportunity of the first half, however, came from Curtean with one of his characteristic shots from 25-30m, but Zapata made a spectacular save and left the impression that Poli would settle things in the second half.
Indeed, Sabău made an offensive change quite early on: Parks for central defender Mera, switching from a 3-5-2 to a 4-4-2. With caution blown away, Steaua had their first real chance just 2 minutes later, when Nicoliţă received a good pass leaving him with a clear shot on goal, but he only managed to hit Pantilimon. Parks immediately made his mark on the game, which picked up the pace, but he was found in an offside position.
After a clearance from Zapata, the ball should have been easily intercepted by Bourceanu, but instead it fooled two or three players from either side, being finally picked up by Dayro Moreno, who advanced unheeded and took a shot on goal. Pantilimon, too sure of himself, dropped the ball in front of him, leaving Surdu to slide in for the goal.
Poli quickly stepped up on the attack creating a few good chances. A swell pass from Parks, but Bucur only managed to find Steaua's goalie. A series of good passes opened up the visiting side's defense, Parks deflected the ball, and Arman Karamyan scored, but from an offside position. Surdu later made a fool of himself, when left one-on-one with Pantilimon he shot wide. Alexa tried a couple of shots from long distance, but they were totally above target. His midfield partner, Bourceanu, took his chance, too, after dribbling midfield and then making a spectacular shot over Zapata, which unfortunately only hit the woodwork. Later, however, he made a useless and foolish attack from behind, which inevitably lead to his sending off. This recklessness will make him miss the game against Galati and the one against bitter rivals, Dinamo. Sabau will have to find new solutions for midfield, because Alexa will also be suspended for the next match after seeing his fifth yellow card of the season.
The Karamyan brothers played in the same manner - hard working, but not well enough. Artiom's free kicks were particularly useless. Nibombe was ok, but was unsure on two separate occasions. The one in the second half could have been serious, when in a moment of indecision he was robbed of the ball, but luckily, Scutaru dived in to save his back. Parks played well, clearly changing the face of the game, fulfilling the role of the man who connects passes between midfield and attackers. Too bad the efforts were eclipsed by the error in defense.
The end of the twelfth stage of this crazy championship sees four teams struggling for the top spot with 22 points, and three others including Poli with 21. Braşov are lurking behind, too, with 20 points. The season is far from over and this defeat is not that serious to the overall balance, as it is frustrating that our favourites couldn't take advantage of the opportunity to take a 2 point lead.
P.S. It was nice to see a handful of fans supporting Magera at the stadium, even though their player only came on late in the match.
Poli: Pantilimon (3,5) - Scutaru (6), Nibombe (5), Mera (5,5) - Bonfim (5,5), Alexa (6), Bourceanu (5), Arm. Karamyan (5,5), Art. Karamyan (5) - Bucur (5), Curtean (5,5)
Parks (5,5) for Mera
Stancu (5) for Curtean
Magera for Alexa