Astra Ploieşti - Poli 1:3 (1:2)

With all other top teams (except Rapid) scoring wins, it was very important for us to win as well. A very tough challenge, considering our opponents haven't lost a single game on their home turf, since after the first match of the championship. That, and Astra have stopped some of the good teams, most recently winning a Rapid last stage. Not to mention the 0-0 draw against us and our Cup elimination on penalties with 2-2 after extra time.

Probably, one of the hardest match of this stage. But the violets started excellently and after 10 minutes it was already 2-0. First, in the second minute, Chițu provided a good cross, Goga with the deflection and Magera appears at the far post to put it in. Then, after a corner kick, one of the defenders stops Nibombe's header with his hand and the referee offers a penalty. Goga's strike hits the bar but rebounds off the goalkeeper and into the net.

Unfortunately, the players lost their concentration very quickly and let Astra become dangerous. It was only the 18th minute when our slow central defenders - Mera and Nibombe - were found at least two meters behind the attackers. Taborda came out of the box to slide at the feet of Astra's player, who had made the ball to the left. Free kick and yellow card for our goalie. Liviu Ganea, their star striker, borrowed from Dinamo, executed the free kick, low, to the far post. Taborda was baffled and had no reaction as the balled went past him.

Poli had a try 2 minutes later, but Magera's running shot lacked the power. After that, Astra started to dominate the game, their fast players going past our defenders too easily, especially Nibombe, who in the 36th minute brought down Strătilă in the box. Liviu Ganea executed, but this time his strategy didn't work, and the shot was poor enough for Taborda to grab hold of it. Fortunately, Astra's incursions weren't fruitful, except for Diego Silva's shot and Strătilă's lobbed volley, which went inches past the post.

Right before the 45 minute mark, Mera was following a ball alongside Liviu Ganea, but being slower, blocked him with his arm. The referee showed him the second yellow card and was sent off. This might, in fact, have been good for Poli, as in the second half the team was more compact. And with Contra coming in for Chiacu (who's performance was appaling), little team Astra faced a mature and more experienced team.

Indeed, the second half was much less interesting that the first one, Astra not having almost any chances, despite having a one man advantage. Poli played well, keeping the pressing up, and Goga's persistance gave us two chances. First, he ended with a poor shot, right in the hands of the goalkeeper. But in the 88th minute, after a pass from Magera, he went through two defenders, flipped the goalie and pushed into the empty goal, securing our win.

After Bonfim came in, the duo with Contra created some danger on the right side, although towards the end they were more concerned with keeping the ball than creating opportunities. Another big chance came from a free kick on the left side, played short to Sepsi, who swerved into the box and blasted it into the short corner, but the goalkeeper was on target.

All in all, a deserved, hard-worked win, and congratulations to the players for showing the necessary spirit. Unfortunately, from now on all games have to be played for the win.

Poli: Taborda (6) - Luchin (6), Mera (3), Nibombe (4), Sepsi (6,5) - Chiacu (5), Bourceanu (5,5), Kozak (5), Chiţu (5,5) - Magera (6), Goga (7)


Contra (6) for Chiacu (min 45)
Bonfim (5,5) for Kozak (min 58)
Parks for Chiţu (min 71)

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