It was an excellent which finally brought a well deserved win for Poli, the only one this European season. A lovely match ensued, despite the frozen pitch, -5°C temperature and empty stadium due to UEFA's ban against the home side. It all started early on, when Slepička found himself face to face with Taborda, who excellently stretched himself to deflect the shot. Zagreb had a few attempts from the same Slepička and from Sammir and Mandžukić, as Poli was slow to heat up their engines. But while the inexperienced defense (Mera, Scutaru, Nibombe) couldn't stop the Croats, Taborda delivered his best game for Poli.
The violets came back to write down a few opportunities, as Parks and Bucur were very collaborative in the attack, each serving the other. First, Parks's header stretched Butina quite a bit, then Bucur failed to connect with the ball crossed by Parks in front of the goal, after a remarcable action from the Costa Rican. Butin also had to be on his toes to block Maxim's free kick attempt, and Stancu's long distance shot. The game died down towards half time.
The second half, started with Dinamo pulling the strings, allowed by our shaky defense, which failed to clear the ball. This enabled the adversaries to stay in our own half for many minutes, and had numerous consecutive corners. They were all delivered to central defender Lovren, which Mera, despite being taller then him, lost duel after duel. Luckily, Lovren's headers weren't effective either. Taborda once again had to stretch himself to block Ibáñez shot.
Like in the first half, Poli striked back, with Bucur handling the ball well on the left, made his way to the goal line, and lobbed the ball back, excelently finding Curtean, who I forgot was even in the game, but, too sure of himself, he put it over the top post, despite having the perfect position. But two minutes later, Parks received the ball close to the box, found Bourceanu on the left, whose cross missed Bucur, but arrived at Stancu. Stancu's shot was good, because it wasn't full on, but rather to side, and Bucur could deflect it into the net. His first goal in the group stage.
But when Zagreb's attempts couldn't beat Taborda, Sivonjić did well to fool our play at offside, and his poor shot went past our keeper. Scutaru was there, but somehow, instead of clearing the ball, only helped it hit the back of the net. Maxim also had a very good night, with a great left flank incursion, putting the ball consecutively past two opponents, but his cross was blocked. Nevertheless, on another occasion he delivered it to Parks, who deflected it back to the 16 meter line, from where substitute Goga put it past Butina for 2-1. The game ended with Claudiu Ionescu and debutant Matei on the pitch.
It was Poli's best match in the group stage, and a wonderful end to a great European campaign and an excellent year all over. I said that Magera's absence would cost us dearly, but Sabău did well to contradict me. Bucur and Parks played on the same line, and close to the midfielders, which meant none of them was ever isolated, both changing from servant to receiver. One occasion, even found Bucur in our half to pass for Parks who was way up front.
Even with three defenders, their lack of experience proved to be decisive on many occasions. I think there wasn't a single time when they cleared the ball on first attempt. Luckily, Alexa stepped back to help them, blocking numerous balls. Tactically, Poli played perfect, isolating their midfielder, Morales, his teammates, unable to offer him any good passes. Instead, they resorted to incursions on our weak central defense, but, like I said, Taborda ended his counts with Poli, giving his best performance. Bourceanu on the other hand was very often the connector between Poli's attackers and displayed good effort as usual. Our flanks were excellent, both Stancu and Maxim showing they can achieve more than we think. Curtean, however, was invisible and his performance appalling.
This win also enters history as the first away win in European competitions ever for Poli. Bravo!
Poli: Taborda (8) - Stancu (6), Nibombe (5,5), Mera (5,5), Scutaru (4), Maxim (6,5) - Curtean (5), Bourceanu (6,5), Alexa (7) - Parks (6), Bucur (6,5)
Goga for Curtean (min 75)
Matei for Bucur (min 88)
Ionescu for Parks (min 90+2)