Another tough stage for Poli at Drobeta Turnu-Severin, where Universitatea Craiova has found the love of new fans that filled the 20,000 seats of the stadium on a sunny Saturday before Easter. Seeing that all rivals had easy matches, against small teams that didn't even bother to trouble them, Poli had the toughest match of the day, which could have gone either way, with us struggling to keep in touch with the top positions, and Craiova clinging on every point to avoid relegation.
First ones to test their luck were the home team, with ex-Poli player Bălace trying a shot from outside the box, which brought out Pantilimon's first strech, despite the ball going safely wide. In the 7th minute though, Parks scrambled from the half-way line towards a long ball, found himself one on one with the goalkeeper, but decided to pass it left, avoid a last moment tackle, and Goga pushed it into the empty net.
Poli then went on to control the game, Chițu testing his luck in the 17th minute, with a 20m shot off the rebound, but it goes a little over the bar. With a good pressing and sturdy defense, they managed to keep Craiova out of the box till about the half-hour mark. The home team could only try long shots, like the one in the 17th minute, when Mera's clearance unfortunately meets an opponent. His diagonal shot from 25m left of the goal is retained by Pantilimon, with a bit of effort, but it's in his hands nevertheless.
Our reluctance, gave Craiova the courage to push forward, noticing a weakness on our right flank, where Luchin was constantly surpassed and not being helped by the midfielders. First, a cross meets Pițurcă's header, who had just blazingly taken Nibombe's face, but luckily the ball zooms over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute, a free kick is executed shortly, taking us by surprise, a dash down the sideline, a cross on the near post, a back heel from Ilyev, from between Magera and Nibombe, and not even Pantilimon's touch could stop the ball from going in. A bit more attention on our side and perhaps this goal would never have been. Craiova was certainly on a roll, becuse 5 minutes later, the defense was once again too slow for a long ball, but Pantilimon jumped on the ball, after slipping, right at the opponent's feet. The end of the half, however, found Poli in attack, with the biggest chance coming in the 40th minute, when Kozak's free kick, was headed by Nibombe, the keeper cand only block it, but the same Nibombe, on the rebound, can only blast it over the bar, with the empty goal in front of him.
The second half began with Luchin's substitution for Bonfim, whose speed changed the game both defensively and offensively. Poli dominated the most part, but Craiova was dangerous on the counter-attack. First big chance cam in the 55th minute when Kozak opens up Parks on the right, the Costarican fends off two opponents, sees Alexa on the edge of the box. His shot is blocked but bounds to Magera, who finds himself alone with the keeper, but can only target him with the ball.
Craiova first raises its head in the 65th minute with a 30m powerful shot by Costea, but it's right on the middle, and Pantilimon blocks it. Right afterwards, an incursion on the left, down the goal line, ends with a strange high, backwards cross. But it is followed well and finalized with a back volley. Pantilimon is once again attentive and stretches to take hold of the ball. A very big opportunity, that could have sealed a victory for Craiova took place in the 85th minute. Another counter, another reluctant dash on the right, the cross is pushed forward by Pantilimon, but because the attacker has to come back and get the ball, Pantilimon has just enough time to get back on his feet and block the shot. And as fortune would have it, in the last minute of the game, Craiova's keeper handles Sepsi's cross in the same way, but Magera is right on the spot to volley the ball between two defenders and into the net, bringing 3 golden points home.
It's hard to say something after such a match. We can only repeat ourselves about how Poli plays at the moment, and in the end what's important is the 3 points, and the fact that we are still in a good position, with 2 easy games ahead next week. Among our players, Parks was among the best, being a thorn in the opponents' defense and showing that he plays better as servant. Magera had good and bad moments, scoring the winning goal, but also having a terrible miss. As was Nibombe, at times being surpassed, but at other times being the decisive man in defense. Kozak was sometimes in the game, opening up the play slightly, but for periods of time you couldn't tell he was on the pitch. His crosses were on a bad day as well. Wether he has not yet sinked in with the team or not, it is too early to say. Finally, Mejia, who came in quite early, in the 67th minute, was almost invisible and totally unimpressive when he had the ball.
So let us saviour this win, and wish everybody a happy Easter!
Poli: Pantilimon (6) - Luchin (5), Mera (5,5), Nibombe (5,5), Sepsi (6,5) - Goga (5,5), Alexa (6), Kozak (5), Chiţu (5) - Parks (6), Magera (6)
Bonfim (5,5) for Luchin (min 45)
Mejia (5) for Chiţu (min 67)
Contra for Kozak (min 77)