Dinamo – Astra

Dinamo Bucharest vs. Astra Giurgiu

Saturday 29th October 2016, 8.30pm.

Dinamo Stadium, Bucharest (“the Pit”). Ticket for Tribuna I: 25 lei (just under £5/€6).

Sixth plays tenth on a chilly night at Stefan cel Mare. Or, if you prefer, the current league champions visit the second most successful Romanian club of all time. These two have not been playing like their pedigree so far this season, and both should be worried about the possible ignominy of missing the cut when the league splits in two.

The vista from Tribuna I

A supposedly attacking formation from Astra’s coach Marius Șumudică (who, being a former Rapid legend, receives regular barracking as a ‘gypsy’ from the peluza sud to our right) is not reflected in their play for most of the game, in which Dinamo look the stronger. The home team’s left side is lively, with full back Steliano Filip and winger Vali Lazar, and the first half is punctuated by the odd fluent move, but frankly it’s more entertaining to watch the behaviour of the two forward lines.

Dinamo’s centre-forward, a journeyman Slovak international called Adam Nemec, looks slow and clunky, like he’s playing the wrong sport, but considerably less grumpy than his opposite number up the other end, Dennis Alibec. This wide-hipped chancer – who was the league’s second-top scorer last season and represented Romania at the Euros – tonight expends far more energy flapping his arms in frustration at his team-mates’ incompetence than running after the ball. Even his dives are half-hearted: let’s be generous and assume that his impending transfer to Steaua in the January window has diminished his desire to give his all for the Astra badge.

After 12 minutes, Lazar skips through the defence on the left and shoots against the far post. Twenty minutes later a weak backpass gives Nemec a sight of goal outside the area. Making what looks like completely the wrong decision (he could have squared it to a team-mate in a better position), the big man places his shot perfectly beyond the sprawling goalkeeper to open the scoring. The half-time mood is positive – even among the group of four Astra fans sitting behind us, who must be grateful they are only one down.

Five minutes after the restart, Dinamo come up with the best move of the game, a swift attack involving five players, finished neatly by Hanca. Two-nil and the home side are cruising. A few minutes later, it gets worse for Astra: captain Junior Morais argues over a minor decision by the (admittedly erratic) referee and receives a straight red card. This turns out to have been for dissent, described in the deeply affronted ProSport report as cuvinte suburbane (“suburban words”). I am very happy to learn this new phrase.

2-0 being the dangerous scoreline it is, Dinamo slacken off and Astra actually look more solid than before. When defender Cristian Săpunaru’s free-kick, awarded for a careless handball in the D, hits the underside of the crossbar and bounces onto the line, the linesman gives the goal. It’s one of those, as any German knows, whose secrets will never be yielded, no matter how many replays you watch. (You can’t give it, in other words.) At 2-1 the giurgiuvenii now have a sniff, and the tall Săpunaru is pushed up front. With one last effort, the visitors race into the area: the classy substitute playmaker Teixeira*, who has looked impressive since coming on, dinks the ball in for the brilliantly named Romario Kortzorg. The goalkeeper rushes out… Kortzorg’s raised boot knocks the ball towards the goal… The keeper parries it with both hands… Kortzorg falls over the keeper’s body… a defender clears the ball to safety… The referee blows for a penalty! Amid understandable outrage at the softness of the 94th-minute decision, the kick is converted and it’s all over.

The officials are warmly congratulated on a job well done, at the end of the match

Our neighbours in the peluza chant for Dinamo coach Ioan Andone’s resignation. Andone himself, after having a little shout at the referee on the pitch at the end, refuses to blame the officials for the result: he knows his team should never have let ten-man Astra back in the game in the last half-hour. The visitors now have renewed hope of making it into the top half for the business end of the season, when the €1.5m from Alibec’s transfer will pay the players’ salaries for a little longer. As for us – well, this game never looked like providing four goals and a whole bunch of controversy, so we’re happy with how things turned out. It’s all in the game, Trevor.

*once of West Brom and Barnsley