As we reach the cusp of this year's Romanian football season, the question of who is set to win the competition is still wide open. Poli is the main reason why that is the case, as our team, despite achieving a flawless start in the first four rounds of 2011, started dropping points at home in the following matches, which brought the first and the fifth placed teams within eight points of one another. Currently, Poli lies second, one point adrift from leaders Otelul.
Here are this year's results:
Poli Timisoara - Gaz Metan Medias 3 : 1
(Goga, Zicu, Zicu)
CFR Cluj - Poli Timisoara 1 : 2
Poli Timisoara - Universitatea Craiova 4 : 0
(Zicu, Magera, Goga, Goga)
Victoria Branesti - Poli Timisoara 0 : 2
Poli Timisoara - Steaua Bucuresti 0 : 0
Poli Timisoara - Astra Ploiesti 2 : 2
Sportul Studentesc - Poli Timisoara 2 : 3
(Zagrean, Zagrean, Goga)
Poli Timisoara - Pandurii Tg Jiu 2 : 2
Rapid Bucuresti - Poli Timisoara 3 : 2
It's been a very hectic ride, as the team played no less than five matches between the 2nd and the 17th of April, with a worrying trend. After pretty convincing performances against Medias, Cluj, Craiova and Branesti, the white-violets started losing steam. The match against Steaua, which started the April rush, ended in a goalless draw, despite the away side playing a bit better and Poli being refused a penalty in the latter part of the game. The draw against Astra saw the team coming back from 0:2, after another refused penalty, but also an unconvincing performance. Goga's last gasp goal in the added minutes ensured the three points went Poli's way in the match against "bottom leaders" Sportul, as the home side squandered a few good chances to earn a win moments before. Another last minute goal, this time by Zicu, avoided the first loss of the season in the match with Pandurii, but there was nothing left to do last weekend against Rapid, as the team was inflicted it's first loss of the year, as well as it's first away loss since 2009!
Under normal conditions, any club in the position of boasting with such achievements should be leading the standings easily, but the many draws obtained by Poli leave the team only in second place. Although considered early favourites for the title, going into 2011, after the recent performances and particularly the unconvincing manner of play exhibited on the pitch, they have lost their status. Of course, this is no issue in itself, as the team is still very much involved in the title bout and has quite a few arguments supporting its cause, but it's also fairly obvious that some sort of impulse is needed to jump-start the latent fighting spirit.
Of the players who have joined the club in the winter break, only Ghionea has found a cozy spot in the first eleven. Ignatjevic has made several appearances, due to Sepsi suffering an injury, but his performances have been unconvincing, while Zagrean has proven an interesting replacement for Axente, scoring three goals in the few minutes played. The other players have played even less, with Rocha and Ricketts seeming interesting prospects. The latter even managed to score the winning goal against CFR Cluj, before suffering an injury that sidelined him until last weekend, when we found his way back on the bench.
It seems like the series of injuries and suspensions incurred by several Poli players has been a deciding factor for the poor run of late, but there is also a sense of something more complicated evolving within the team. Whether it is an underlying physical problem or a matter of remuneration, a solution needs to be found, if Poli is to stay in it with a chance until these last seven rounds have been played.