Poli played great, the first half being one of the best this season, good rythm, fast passing, possession, dribbling, basically just eye-pleasing football. But the end of the match found us all cheering, relieved of all frustration, for a very late equaliser.
Sabău sent in a strange lineup. As always it might be said. But this played to great effect. Not only were the opponents baffled, but it produced a fast-paced game based on continuous passes. For the first time, probably, Poli played with only one defensive midfielder - Alexa. In front of him we found Contra, as determined as ever, and his mark on the game could be well seen, bringing attitude and ambition, which were totally lacking the past two matches. The flanks were covered by Bourceanu and Curtean, but while Curtean usually played left, and Bourceanu had at times played on the right, this time they were switched. This must have awoken Curtean, whose performances up to date were way under par. Perhaps because he was a bit lost with his position in the beginnning, he was more in the game than usual and had a strong influence on his flank, along with the very offensive Bonfim, while Bourceanu was dazzling to his opponents on the left, twisting and turning them like we would have expected from Mejia rather than him.
That was the key. With a strong midfield, precise pressing, Cluj barely managed to get out of their own half. But this didn't trouble them much. The championship leaders happy with the draw, put out a sturdy defense and were wasting time very early in the game. Nevertheless, the first big opportunity arised inside the first minute, when Mansour was found in the box, touched the ball right in front of the keepr, who could only bring him down. But the referees didn't see it, and no penalty was given. 12 minutes later, the same Mansour is at the end of a cross from Sepsi, but Nuno Claro's deflection is enought to make him miss the target from close range. Then, Curtean with a shot from outside the box, and Mansour with another header test Nuno Claro's skill. Poli's domination continued, but only materialized close to the end of the half, when Cisovsky's long distance shot stretched the goalkeeper quite a bit.
At half time, the feeling was one of frustration, that despite the total domination the ball just wouldn't go in. Indeed, Cluj came out better in the second half and started to get closer to our goal, Deac shooting a hard one that stretches Taborda as well. The goal came after a poor free kick, which hit the wall, but bounced unfortunately in the corner of the keeper's box. Taborda scrambled at Deac's feet, but couldn't retain the ball, which jumped back at the attacker, who, from an almost impossible angle, pushed the ball along the goal line and into the net.
After such a lucky goal, Poli's efforts were marked by despair and up to the end, only few big opportunities occured. The only one to mention is a header from Mansour, which was going towards an empty net, but Cadu, out of nowhere twisted in the air to deflected at the last moment. In the 86th minute, Nuno Claro was shown a second yellow card for misconduct, after just one minute earlier being cautioned for delaying the game. With no substitutes remaining, Cadu had to assume the role of goalkeeper. But even with the numerical advantage, Poli's game was plagued by frustration and despair. Sabău changed very late and without much effect. The opportunities only appeared late into injury time. First, Mansour dashed into the box from the side and shot wide, when a pass was perhaps more reasonable. Alexa managed a shot on goal, but Cadu showed he is a good goalkeeper as well, rising to deflect it. The goal came after the corner - the last of countless that Poli had throught the game. Mansour and a defender jumped for the ball, which, luckily fell back in the box, Alexa heading it into the net, with a few seconds past the 7 minutes of injury time. The referee signaled the end of the game.
Like I said, it's very frustrating to know that Poli played so well, but had to struggle only to get a draw, which in the end doesn't help at all. With 5 points ahead, 6 matches to go, and only Vaslui being the only serious adversary left for Cluj, it seems they are set to win the title. But, in our championship, who knows?
Still, we need to play just as good, as the battle for second place is still very pen, the next match being a decisive one, against Steaua, which is one point ahead. But with a game like this, we can very well imagine a win against them.
Poli: Taborda (6) - Bonfim (5,5), Nibombe (5,5), Cisovsky (5,5), Sepsi (5,5) - Curtean (5,5), Alexa (6,5), Contra (6), Bourceanu (6) - Goga (5), Mansour (6)
Cociş for Goga (min 75)
Magera for Curtean (min 75)
Ionescu for Bourceanu (min 82)