Review - August 2010

Not the best of season starts, but one that tells a lot about what Poli looks like and where it is headed under the command of Petrovic. In fact, it is very customary for us to start with a draw. Same as last year, the first match was against Bistrița, and we managed to pull a 2-2 draw. The results of the first 5 stages so far are as follows:

Poli - Gloria Bistrița 2:2 (1:1)
Gaz Metan Mediaș - Poli 2:2 (1:0)
Poli - CFR Cluj 3:2 (2:1)
Universitatea Craiova - Poli 1:1 (0:0)
Poli - Victoria Brănești 2:1 (1:0)

As you can see, many goals, but also many draws, which leaves us currently at 4 points behind the leaders. Many of the conceded goals were personal mistakes, which is what defines Poli in this beginning of the season: very offensive, but also very uncoordinated and insecure in defense. This style has been a bit interrupted by our European endeavour, where we were forced to play very defensively, and has also put a burden on the playes.

One of the best players, and definitely the most impressive, was Mircea Axente. Although he's been with the club for about 6 years, he's been mostly loaned to other teams, or played a bit for the second team. Last year he was loaned to Oțelul Galați and managed to score 3 goals in the two matches against Poli - what irony! Even so, nobody expected for him to make such a fantastic start for the big team, definitely catching a starting spot, in front of the other players, that have already played for Poli. His goals were very important, scoring the equaliser against Gaz Metan, and a very nice goal in the brilliant win against CFR Cluj, where he managed to fool the keeper, while also keeping a defender at bay. He's also scored to in the Europa League qualifiers, the winning goal in the first leg with MyPa, and our first goal for the incredible comeback in the second leg. Tall, well built, skillful and fast is what describes our 23 year old attacker. And for sure, he has more to prove.

Another good performer was Magera, but that is no big surprise, as he has shown to be a very important player for Poli. He is currently our top goal scorer in the championship, with 3 goals. Another big surprise is Zicu, who was transferred after the season start. He isn't and top physical form, and has always been sent in in the second half, but he's managed to score 3 important goals: the 2nd one against MyPa, the late equaliser at Craiova, and a splendid scissors-kick for the winner against Victoria Brănești. We hope that he will prove to be a very important player, especially after he is fully recovered.

At the other end, we can't single out any bad players, as all defenders, even Cisovsky or Alexa have made grave errors which lead to goals, but despite these, they've played very good the rest of the time. Mera, perhaps, was a bit insecure more than the others.

As for the rest of the line-up, we must note that Poli has let Igor Popovic go, without him playing a single minute in an official match. Dukic has only played one half, and it seems he hasn't met Petrovic's standards. But he may as well play in the future, seeing that Contra's contract ends after the next match and he is considering retirement. He also missed two matches, having been very easily sent off in the match against Bistrița. However, Dukic has a strong opponent for the right back spot, as Scutaru has put in a few very good performances. Also, Bonfim has been sold to Steaua, to meet up with Latovlevici who arrived there earlier this year. Chiacu, who plays right wing, as Contra did in several matches, has only played a few minutes, but hasn't proven much. Also, the most recent transfer is Burcă, a Romanian defender, who's played very much abroad, his last team being Energie Cottbus. He's made a rather unsatisfying debut in the second leg against Manchester City, but perhaps his experience will be much needed in case one of the central defenders gets injured, as has recently happened with Cisovsky. Also on the injury list is unlucky Mansour, who has made a rather good start.

Thus ends our first review. It should be said that we are at a crucial turning point, as our next match is away, against Steaua, who is 4 points ahead. Thus, a win will set us on a path to fight for the championship, while a loss will definitely put us a few steps behind.


EL: Manchester City - Poli 2:0 (1:0)

The score does not say much at all about how the match went on, as Manchester City have dominated it in a most thorough fashion, even though they left many of their amazing transfers on the bench. With three central defenders, 2 defensive midfielders, there was no chance at all for Poli. Axente was hopeless at 40 yards with City's full line of defense in front of him.

Just like in the 1st leg, there were not many opportunities, and nothing spectacular, but Manchester was controlling the match even more, and it looked more like a training session for them than an actual Europa League play-off. The first goal came in the 42nd minute, after Vieira saw a breach down the middle, and Shaun-Wright Phillips swiftly left behind his man to score at the far post. Adebayor also had a good opportunity after receiving the ball from Sepsi (who was either making mistakes like that, or excellent last minute blocks), but the shot was wide. Axente came with Poli's biggest chance when he dashed down the right, into the box, but with a defender blocking his way, he cold only blow it into the side net.

And just like in the second leg, Poli's game went even lower in the second half, not counting much at all. City seemed to be exercising different passing schemes, but the goal came in the 60th minute, after a free kick from the right, executed to the far post. Burcă couldn't even get off the ground, as his man, Boyata, headed the ball into the goal, left empty by a wandering Pantilimon. The same Burcă, transfered from Cottbus, seemed to have lost his mind when he fumbled a ball inside our box, which he should have either blown away, or pass to our keeper from the very beginning. Luckily, Pantilimon was there to block Adebayor. Bourceanu tried a long distance effort. The ball was going well enough, to the corner of the posts, but Hart stopped it in its tracks, just like Pantilimon stopped Tevez's free kick last week. Apart from that, another opportunity that should be noted, is that Axente received a very good long ball, and was one on one with a defender, who brought him dowm. The referee, however, was reluctant to give the free kick.

And with that, we put a stop to our short European adventure this year. Let it be said that we achieved as much as it was possible for us. We should have won both legs against MyPa, but in the end we managed to pull ourselves to the next stage, against this colossus. We can regret not achieving at least a draw in either matches against Manchester City, but I think it's more important for the team to draw the line, ask themselves what is to be learned from this experience, and concentrate on the championship.

Poli: Pantilimon - Burcă, Mera, Luchin, Sepsi - Contra, Bourceanu, Alexa - Magera, Axente, Curtean


Zicu for Magera (min 45)
Goga for Curtean (min 57)
Chiacu for Contra (min 83)


Match preview: Manchester City - Poli

There's not much to say about this game, as there is very little hope for us. Perhaps if we somehow manage to score first, things will get interesting. But it's going to be very hard. Manchester City already know us, and they will probably be more direct than the first leg.

Thus there can be an issue on how to approach this game? Should we play defensively like in the home match, to avoid a shameful defeat, or should we risk it all and let our hope die last? If you ask me, I'd go for the latter, because it's the honorable way to go, and you don't know when miracles might just happen.

Our advantage is that Mancini still insists to play it safe, the good old Italian way, and the million dollar players will probably treat us very superficially. Our only hope is to take them by a very big surprise.

Cisovsky will miss this match because of an injury, so it is very possible to see a fully Romanian lineup. And since we're talking about lineups, there is also the possibility to rest the key players for the very important upcoming away match against Steaua Bucharest in the championship, on Sunday evening. But Zicu, Tames seem to not be at 100%, and cannot handle a full match, and the other players haven't showed much when given the chance. Perhaps some of the youngsters on the list could be used, but I have yet to see a coach take such a decision, so I'm betting on a standard lineup for this match.

Go Poli!

Radical Changes

You may have noticed the lack of match reports from the championship. That's because we want to change the format a bit. Instead of boring recounts, we thought it would be interesting to have periodical reviews - probably one every month. We will give you the results, but the focus will be to talk about the general direction of the team, which players sparked, which were awful and so on. We'll still have individual reports and previews of the European matches, although for this season those are about to end quite soon.

We'd also like to receive feedback from you, our readers. What would you like to read and know about Poli? Because this blog is for you. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment to this post. We won't mind if you also tell us a few about yourself, where you are from, what relates you to Poli and whatever else you like. We're not pushing you, of course.

Expect to see the first review on Friday, after the match against Manchester City.


Poli - Manchester City 0:1 (0:0)

Not much to say about the opportunities in this match as they were quite sporadic. Manchester City started cautiously, keeping the ball in their half, leaving Poli to be brave on the attacking phase. The English side felt more dangerous when they climbed up into our half, but the only opportunities were a few missed corners and a free-kick from Tevez, easily caught by Pantilimon.

On the other hand, Poli was trying to overcome their fear, on the guidance of the more experienced Alexa and Contra, the latter who was well prepared for this big game, looking on his top form. Magera also felt on a higher level than his colleagues, providing some heartened duels, while Bourceanu and Curtean tried any tricks they could come up with to lighten Poli's game. Axente, however, felt a bit shaken, probably by the big stake of the match. When the ball came to his feet, he didn't know what to do, and was usually blocked by one of the massive defenders. Our problem was mostly that, with two defensive midfielders, the game was cramped on our flanks, leaving no room for improvisations in the center, and our game lacked that flow that leads to goals.

Anyway, in the second half, things changed, with Manchester City pushing us towards our goal. Overrun, physically and mentally, Poli was pushed in its own half, and barely had the chance to come out. The final possession (60% in favour of City) speaks for itself. Still, there were no big opportunities until the 70 minute mark. After a corner, Yaya Toure receives the ball in the box, and pounces on it, blasting it into the near post. Scutaru, a bit injured and limping, is changed with Zicu, and Contra is pulled back into his place as right-back. This proves fatal, as Adebayor receives on the right, crosses low, past Cisovsky, and Balotelli takes Luchin's face to push it into the empty net.

There was nothing that Poli could do, and the Blues stepped back almost completely, and were mistreating every big opportunities they received on counter attack. A good result overall, although a draw could have been achievable. In attack, City's massive defenders seemed impenetrable, while our defense was very effective until they pushed with all their team in our half, but it also seemed that they didn't even try hard enough.

Not very spectacular for the neutral spectator, or, indeed, even for a City fan, this game is something to learn from, at both the physical and individual levels, because it was surely at a different level from what we've seen on "Dan Păltinișanu" stadium before. I think we'll see a different, more mature Poli in the next championship match.

The players should be congratulated for their determination and ambition that they've put in this match, despite the odds.

Poli: Pantilimon - Scutaru, Luchin, Cisovsky, Sepsi - Contra, Alexa, Bourceanu, Curtean - Axente, Magera


Zicu for Scutaru (min 70)
Mera for Contra (min 80)
Goga for Magera (min 83)


Match preview: Poli - Manchester City

I'm sure to get a lot of raised eyebrows when I say that the only big advantage Manchester City has over us is the big number of big names they have on their squad and despite the repeated use of 'big' that advantage is not that big as it might seem.

For sure, I wouldn't want to be in Mancini's shoes these days - to be facing a totally unknown adversary and to have to choose a starting 11 from over 30 players with impressive skills and big figures next to their name on the transfer market. Not to mention to have them play as a team and to motivate them.

It is my reasoning that pumping loads of money into a team is no silver bullet to big performances. Manchester City's recent history reminds me somehow of Poli's history. After struggling a bit in the lower division, City managed to make a stable comeback in the Premier League in the early 2000s. The Arabian investors' transfer spree is similar (but larger in scale, of course) to Poli's strategy when BKP came in. Each year we would buy a whole new set of overpriced players, and each year, the results would be mediocre. The same seems to be with City these days. With only one European Cup participation (albeit a pretty good one) in the last five years, their strategy still has to prove its worth. Especially, after the utter failure of missing the last Champions League place in the previous season. I'm betting Tottenham Hotspur is a truely despised team by the "Citizens" by now. Will Politehnica Timișoara be another one?

I see two possible scenarios for this game. Either we make some big mistakes in defense and give away the first goal and possibly end in disaster, or we can bet on a 1X ending. I think the key is the concentration that our defenders will have. And they are known for surpassing themselves in the big European matches - if we think of last years bouts with Shaktar, Stuttgart or Ajax. On the other hand, there were mistakes in other matches as well, so anything is possible. But I'm sure we stand a better chance than most people see it.

Let's go, Poli!


Poli - MyPa 3:3 (0:3)

The European matches with small teams are the most exciting, because unknown ambition is shown from such sides, that overcome the odds to put in more than a good effort.

So it was, that despite a 2-1 away win, Petrovic sent in some of the best players, but with some slight, but important changes. Goga had the first opportunity of the match in the 11th minute, but the Finns caused panic with some blistering counter attacks, especially due to the speedy Ricketts. The Canadian had passed Mera to meet the incoming ball. Taborda was on spot to push it out, but Äijälä calmly lobbed the ball over our keeper.

An unfortunate setback, it seemed, but just 2 minutes later, after a corner kick, the ball fumbles close to the near post, and Ricketts pinches it in. At this score we were eliminated, but there was no need to despair. That is until Ricketts left Cisovsky in the dust and calmly executed Taborda for an unbeliveable 0-3, just 7 minutes after the first goal. Things were looking very bad, indeed, as Poli needed to score 3 goals in little over an hour. Baffled, the team tried aimlessly to score, but not much happened till half time.

Petrovic reacted by substituting right defender Dukic with Bourceanu. Although he didn't make mistakes, his collaboration with Contra on the right side was somewhat inefficient. Poli started more aggresively, the first big chance coming in the 51st minute, when Alexa's shot struck the root of the post. Just 4 minutes later, Tameș walked the ball close to the box, pushed it to Magera, who opened up Goga. He put it past the keeper, but the ball hit the post again. Luckily, Axente followed it and pushed it in. Tameș created another similar opportunity, right before being substituted by Zicu, who made his debut in the violet t-shirt.

Unfortunately, this setback the team a little, as the game re-balanced itself. MyPa had a few counter attacks, but they were visibly exhausted, probably by the unsual (for them) heat, going for the water bottle quite often. Even Ricketts was running in a lower gear than in the first half, but still had a good opportunity to kill the game with a quarter to go, when he shot the ball past Taborda, and luckily, past the post as well.

Then, almost out of nowhere, Alexa opened Zicu in the corner of the box, who blasted the ball past the keeper into the net. Just one more! Goga managed a header which was going for the empty net, but a defender managed to deflect it into the post. It was the 85th minute - time was running out - that should have been it, but it wasn't. MyPa had another opportunity to finish it, right at the 90 minute mark, but the ball again strolled shamelessly past the post.

2 minutes into extra time, the ball fell on the edge of the 6 yard box. Mansour jumped to it and won the duel with the adversary, lifted it towards the center, where Cisovsky was waiting to push it into the empty net with his head!

A dramatic match, despite all appearances before the start, but that's what makes football beautiful. Happy with the result in the end, but there are some bad conclusions to be drawn. Firstly, the utter lack of concentration from the players and, second, the lack of organization in defense. There are lessons to be learned, and after all, what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.

How strong? We will soon see.

Poli: Taborda (4,5) - Dukic (5), Mera (4,5), Cisovsky (5,5), Sepsi (5,5) - Contra (5,5), Alexa (6,5), Tameş (6), Goga (6) - Axente (6), Magera (5,5)


Bourceanu (6) for Dukic (min 45)
Zicu (6,5) for Tameş (min 55)
Mansour (6,5) for Magera (min 71)


EL Play-Off: Poli Timisoara - Manchester City

Massive match-up for the play-off round in the Europa League, as Poli is set to meet Manchester City, one of the richest teams in the world and the most interesting choice from the available opponents. Of course, the challenge is immense, but the experience is bound to be worth remembering.

Looking forward to the first leg, at home, on the 19th of August. The return leg will take place on the 26th of August.


MyPa - Poli 1:2 (0:1)

In European matches, even small teams are a tough nut to crack. Especially if there is a long way ahead, both on wheels, and in the air to Kouvala in cold Finland. The team of Myllykoski, a suburb of this metropolis, has earned its place through UEFA's Fair Play ranking system, despite finishing 9th out of 14 in their national championship.

After defeating Estonia's Nava Trans and Andorra's Sant Julia, the Finns started the match against Poli with big ambitions. Perhaps prudent, or tired, our side accepted to be dominated, being pressed hard into our own half, also allowing a handfull of corner kicks. However, Goga had the first big opportunity of the match, hitting the bar, while MyPa responded in the same way some minutes later. Tameș scored the only goal of the first half, when he found himself with the ball after a well exercised free kick.

The second part was more entertaining, but unfortunately the equaliser came after a mistake from Pantilimon. With opportunities going both ways, Poli came out as winners when Axente managed the goal 15 minutes before the whistle.

An easy, but at the same time hard-earned victory, which, besides assuring somewhat the qualification, also adds precious points to Poli's international portfolio.

Poli: Pantilimon - Luchin, Mera, Cisovsky, Scutaru - Chiacu, Alexa, Tameş, Curtean - Goga, Magera


Axente for Curtean (min 45)
Contra for Chiacu (min 45)
Bourceanu for Tameş (min 84)


Poli - Gloria Bistriţa 2:2 (1:1)

Sorry for the delay. I was on holiday and was unable to see the debut match against Bistrița. Not the best of starts, Poli still showing signs of old weaknesses, especially uncertainty in defense. On the other hand, Petrovic has imposed a more passing style, and it seems that Poli will remain one of the top goal scorers in the championship. The problem will be efficiency.

A balanced match, but one which was plagued by very tight refereeing. Goga managed an early goal in the 11th minute, but Bistrița scored a very quick equaliser after an excellent counter attack in the 19th minute. The match died down, with only two important moments in the rest of the first half. In a similar opportunity, Bistrița scored again about one third into the match, but the goal was ruled out, because of a slight infringement. Goga also tried a long distance shot, but without any success.

The second half started in much the same manner, until in the 70th minute, Bonfim was overtaken and provoked a penalty. Coroian scored, and at the next moment, Contra, sent in at half-time, fought with a bit too much determination for the referee, who showed him the red card after a duel with an adversary.

Luck would have it that just 3 minutes later, Magera scored from a free kick to make 2-2. The numbers were balanced when an opponent was sent off for a bad tackle, but Poli couldn't change the result, only having a goal invalidated after Tameș played the ball with his hand.

Poli: Pantilimon (5) - Sepsi (6), Cisovsky (5,5), Mera (4,5), Bonfim (5) - Poparadu (5), Alexa (5,5), Tameş (5,5), Bourceanu (5,5) - Magera (6,5), Goga (6)


Contra (2) for Poparadu (min 57)
Curtean for Bourceanu (min 75)
Axente for Tameş (min 88)