Read on for a round-up of other Romball titbits…
Liga 1 news
FCSB are tearing it up. Back on top of the table, a run of 13 games unbeaten in all competitions has also seen them progress to the last eight of the Cup and the next round of the Europa League. They are now dealing with the latest episode in the saga of mardy club captain Denis Alibec: the striker’s stroppy reaction to his substitution during a disappointing goalless draw with Voluntari in mid-October saw him harshly fined and dropped for the next game, which his team-mates won 7-0. The man with whom he is competing for his place in the side, Harlem Gnohéré, has scored six goals in his last four league games to go clear at the top of the golgheter charts. A contrite Alibec was reintroduced to the side last weekend as a substitute, providing two assists in a 5-2 away demolition of ostensible title challengers Craiova. However, big Denis was then seen clearly crying on the bench after being subbed for Gnohéré against Hapoel Be’ersheva in midweek. During the same game, in a National Arena toilet, the wife of FCSB midfielder Ovidiu Popescu allegedly assaulted a woman who had been having an affair with her husband.
Early pace-setters, Dan Petrescu’s CFR Cluj, have gone off the boil, without a win in four matches – or even a league goal in three – until yesterday’s narrow victory over Iaşi. Meanwhile Hagi – who took his faith in youth to extremes by playing a 14-year-old in their Cup match last week – has managed to lift Viitorul back up into play-off contention. The highlight of their six straight league wins was a 4-0 away-from-home battering of a Dinamo team in disarray: the Red Dogs haven’t beaten anyone good since July and are again in danger of missing out on the play-off.
Down the wrong end, there are three proper crap teams, which should save Concordia Chiajna‘s bacon once again, because they are slightly less rubbish. Newly promoted Juventus and Sepsi, both of whom are playing home games in someone else’s town, are locked in an unsavoury battle of badness with the surprise package of one year ago, Gaz Metan.
Liga 2 news
Oh, look, I can’t emphasise enough how much of a mess Liga 2 has been for the last few years. So far this season no team has been wound up and withdrawn from the competition, but it’s touch and go.
The division has twenty teams, five of which are currently insolvent. One of these, ASA Târgu Mureș, was declared bankrupt in mid-October but was then given a stay of execution last week by the local appeal court. They will be allowed to continue playing while the club’s debt is restructured, pending a new decision during the winter break. On an away trip in the Cup at third-tier Unirea Slobozia, 400km away, club officials impressively forgot to pack any kits. The home team, rather than facing a cancelled fixture and receiving a 3-0 victory by default, supplied the visitors with an old strip of their own. So the game went ahead, and Unirea won 4-0 instead.
Sportul Snagov took on ASU Poli Timișoara on a pitch better suited to wellingtons than to football boots. Faced with a muddy surface dotted with large puddles – compared on Twitter to a paddy field – the cash-strapped visitors declined an offer to postpone the match for 24 hours because of the additional expense that would incur, and lost 1-0.
Olimpia Satu Mare’s players refused to train last week in protest at unpaid wages. The struggling north-western club is financially backed by the county council, whose chief wants Olimpia to compete at a lower level because of the expense involved in Liga 2. Players at Pandurii Târgu Jiu, whose bankruptcy case will be decided in the same January week as Târgu Mureș’, also spent some of October on strike.
Foresta Suceava’s 16-0 opening-day defeat at Ripensia Timisoara caused quite a stir back in early August. Two 6-0s and a 9-1 followed, with a team full of kids, leaving them hopelessly and helplessly adrift at the bottom of the Liga 2 table. Following a foreign takeover, and the acquisition of a load of African players on free transfers, five straight defeats in October mean they are still rooted to the foot, but at least they look like making it to the winter break without folding (and they did manage a win this weekend). I have literally no idea what the investors think they will get out of this.
The impressive top three have a cushion ahead of the pack. Yesterday third-placed Chindia Târgoviște held front-runners AFC Hermannstadt to a 0-0 draw, allowing Dunărea Călărași to leapfrog the latter into top spot. Chindia have now gone eleven matches without conceding a goal. Dunărea, managed by (former Poli, Rapid, Chiajna and Târgu Mureș coach – in a three-year career to date) Dan “the Surgeon” Alexa, have won eleven of their last twelve in the league.
Sibiu’s AFC Hermannstadt, a club which looks well placed to reach Romania’s execrable top flight next May, has only existed since 2015. Yep, you read that right. You thought supporting Man U was easy, but these guys, born in Liga 4 just over two years ago, have quite literally never not won the league. Why stop now?
In the same round of Cup games as Târgu Mureș forgot their kit, Gaz Metan Mediaș’ coach broke down on the Bucharest ring road and the players had to travel the rest of the way to Metaloglobus’ ground in taxis.
The plum tie of the round was the “Derby of the teams claiming to be the real Politehnica Timișoara”, the first ever meeting of ASU Politehnica Timișoara and ACS Politehnica Timișoara. Confused? In short, ASU Poli (the Liga 2 side) was founded in 2012 by disillusioned supporters of the venerable and popular club, after little ACS Recaș was imported from a nearby town to be recast as the new ACS Poli (the Liga 1 team, which has the support of the city council). It’s complicated. Anyway, the higher-ranked team prevailed 1-0 last week in front of 3,000 spectators.
Four Liga 1 clubs were knocked out in this round: Sepsi and Chiajna, plus the last two cup winners, CFR Cluj and Voluntari. The draw for the last 16 of the competition includes two third division outfits, Universitatea Cluj and Unirea Slobozia.
The postponed sale of the extinct Rapid București’s licence will take place on 10th November, after a decision to raise the reserve price from €400,000 to a whopping €4 million (inc. VAT), seen as more in keeping with the legacy of one of the nation’s most successful and best-supported clubs, with its twenty-odd trophies. Academia Rapid’s backers, the Bucharest Sector 1 council, will participate in the auction.