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)