Now that the season is pretty much over and everything is decided – bar the baraj, the play-off to determine whether a third team goes up from the second division, and if so which one – let’s take a look at the final league tables and chew it over.
This was the first season in which the league was split in two for the run-in. After all teams had played each other twice, everyone’s points were halved and the top six were severed from the rest, to play each other twice more. This happened in both Liga I and Liga II. This is how the top six of the top division (the so-called ‘play-off’) finished:
Astra won the league for the first time (discussed in a previous post), and both they and runners-up Steaua go into the third qualifying round of the Champions League. Europa League places are still not finally decided, as Dinamo are appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport against their European ban for filing for insolvency. However, as it stands, Pandurii and Viitorul will go into the third qualifying round, and (because Tîrgu Mureș are also banned from UEFA competitions) the 7th-placed team, CSMS Iași, will enter the second qualifying round. CFR Cluj, the cup-winners, miss out on Europe because of their own insolvency.
At the foot of the table, Petrolul Ploiești and ACS Poli Timișoara go down. Voluntari will play for their Liga I future next week (see below).
Below is how the Liga I table looked before the split in April. As you can see, Dinamo and Viitorul looked to be well-set, but went on to have a poor play-off phase (overshadowed by tragedy in Dinamo’s case), while Chiajna have rocketed upwards in the play-out. Petrolul were deducted 6 points and CFR Cluj 10 points, for financial reasons.
The second division is actually two separate divisions: roughly an east-west split. Below are the tables from the top six (play-off). As you can see, Rapid București topped the table in Seria 1 and Gaz Metan in Seria 2: both clubs bounce back at the first attempt after relegation last year. Since Rapid will not now have six points deducted for an unpaid debt to a former player, Dunărea and UTA will play each other in a two-legged baraj, the winner of which will play Voluntari (third-bottom in Liga I) for a place at the top table next season.
At the bottom of Seria 1, Ceahlăul Piatra Neamț, who were in Liga I last season, were excluded from the competition earlier this month when they failed to turn up to a game with Balotești. The insolvent club was unable to afford the costs of travel and referees, has forfeited all its games in the play-out phase 3-0, and after 96 years of existence will now be relegated to the 5th division of the Neamț county league. In practice, after bankruptcy is declared next week, the club will probably be re-founded.
In Seria 2, FC Brașov seem to be on the verge of disappearance themselves. After 80 years of existence, and 41 seasons in the top flight, the team where Marius Lăcătuș and Tibor Selymes made their names in the 1980s is about to be dissolved. Again, as Brașov is a big city, a new club will presumably be founded immediately in the lower leagues.
FC Bihor Oradea, near the foot of the Seria 2 table, have already been dissolved and have forfeited their matches in the play-out phase; Caransebeș, meanwhile, were deducted 96 points and were excluded from the competition after 25 games.
From the five series of Liga III, two champions stand out. Juventus București will play in Liga II next season, as will ASU Poli Timișoara. Each of these promotions raises the interesting prospect of facing their alter egos next year: Petrolul Ploiești stole the identity of the old Juventus after the Second World War, and the western city of Timișoara (arguably the cradle of the game in Romania) has been for years the scene of unseemly fights over rights to its glorious footballing history. Should be fun…