Wednesday, June 03, 2015

UEFA Europa League final & Romania May 2015

The Europa League final in Warsaw plus the Romanian Cup final and two league matches in Romania.

Wacky Bacca.

27 May 2015   Dnipro 2 Sevilla 3  Europa League final 45,000   National stadium Warsaw

I took a late decision to travel to Warsaw for this final and, perhaps, inevitably had some trauma finding a hotel for the Wednesday night.

With the only availability being at sky-high prices, or in distant locations, I eventually took a chance on a late cancellation at the small hotel I stayed in the night before.
That meant hanging around until about 6pm, when luckily a room did become free.

The alternative, trying to sleep in the station, was not a particularly pleasant thought.

Another option was taking an apparently midnight train towards Breclav but though it was shown on one railway timetable website it turned out not to be running.

Anyway I made a return visit to the impressive National stadium on a chilly night near the Wisla river.
With the roof closed there was a vibrant atmosphere, with Ukrainians to the left and Spaniards to the right.

And we had a surprising start with Kalinic winning a header, nodding on to Matheus who delivered a neat cross for the Croatian striker to head in after just seven minutes.
It was a great beginning to a half that provided plenty of action.

Though Sevilla dominated possession Dnipro always presented a threat on the break.

After the initial setback the Spanish title holders would hit back with two quick goals, firstly through Pole Krychowiak then the first of a double by Carlos Bacca.
Well known ex-Arsenal midfielder Jose Antonio Reyes had delivered the pass for Bacca and the Columbian kept his nerve to round Boyko and score.

It then seemed like Sevilla would consolidate but Dnipro proved determined and resilient and got an equaliser just before half time when their captain Rotan chipped in a free kick.

The second half slowed down and the deciding goal came after 73 minutes - a high ball was not properly cleared and Vitolo picked out a pass to Bacca who scored left footed.
There was no way back for Dnipro after that.

We had a moment of concern (and sudden quiet in the crowd) for Brazilian Matheus when he went down with a delayed reaction to a clash of heads but I assume he recovered well enough.

So Sevilla retained the Europa League and gained direct entry into next years’ Champions League.
The win would also, no doubt, enhance the future prospects of their coach Unai Emery.

While Dnipro could look back on a great campaign and a spirited effort in the final.

I warmed up with a brisk walk to the hotel - with an early train to catch I had opted not to stay for the usually prolonged presentations.  

Dinamo runs down.

29th May  Dinamo Bucharest 0 Astra Giurgiu 2  Liga 1  c. 2,000 (c. 20 away)

Some 30 hours of train rides, the loss of a mobile phone and a reasonable night to myself in a sleeping car later and I was in the Romanian capital.

It was not the most convenient route, or particularly cheap, but I had the time.
(and plenty to read)

Dinamo’s stadium, near to centre of Bucharest, has that typical Eastern European feel with lots of open seating and partial cover along the sides.
A small group of away fans were positioned to the right while the home ultras were to the left.
In front of them the firemen were ready to damp down the fireworks.

But none were lit as there was not much for the home fans to celebrate.
Their team had lots of possession but, apart from the odd effort, failed to produce in the final third.

Astra moved up to third with this victory and they  offered more threats on goal, often prompted by their captain Budescu.
The opening goal was converted by their striker Alibec following a cross from the right.

Astra consolidated soon after the interval when Brazilian William broke away before being brought down in the area.
Budescu coolly dispatched the penalty.

Meanwhile the pattern of steady Dinamo buildup continued as the second period progressed, without much change.
In fact it got worse for the home side with Steliano Filip getting dismissed after a second yellow card.

There was no way back for them after that.

I walked back to my hotel near the station and had a glass of wine as a nightcap.

Crying over.

30th May Univ. Craiova 3 CFR Cluj 0  Liga 1  1,500 (7 away)

Craiova is three hours or so on the train from Bucharest.

It has a pleasant, partly redeveloped, centre with some conducive bars.
In one I had a pre-game glass of Belgian beer whilst admiring the indigenous scenery.

Further south next to the substantial Romanescu Park is the less substantial Extensiv stadium, the temporary home of Universitatea.

This was the final game of the Romanian league season (which curiously did not all complete on the same day) and it felt like an end-of-season encounter for most of the first half.
The only threats came from free kicks including from the local Player-of-the Season (given a nice trophy before the start) Bogdan Vatajelu.

However the stalemate changed soon after halftime when striker Bawab (also given an award) headed in from close range.
Another was added when energetic Cape Verdean Nuno Rocha surged down the left and crossed for Baluta to convert a fine second.

The deciding strike was also scored by Bawab after he avoided the offside trap to chip over Amadio Remo in the CFR goal.

It was a satisfying way to finish for the home side before a fairly small crowd in warm conditions.

Back in the centre I enjoyed an evening meal as the locals strolled around a la Italia.

Steaua power dampens Cluj flares.

31st May  Steaua Bucharest 3 Univ. Cluj 0  Romanian Cup final  37,764

Back in the capital the 77th edition of the Romanian Cup final was played in the modern National Stadium before an audience of mostly Steaua fans.
However the Cluj contingent, in the left hand end, produced much more noise.

Not only songs but a plethora of flares - many thrown onto the pitch at the start of the match.
That delayed proceedings for about 3 minutes while the firemen damped down the debris.

After the smoke had cleared Steaua scored - Adrian Popa getting the first of his two goals - both going in via a post.
That added to the Bucharest sides’ confidence and they dominated the first half with Dutch midfielder Breeveld consistently setting up attacks.
Universitatea only seemed to get anywhere from misplaced Steaua passes.

Otherwise they never managed to exert much influence although Cameroon striker Mengolo showed pace up front without much support.

Cluj did stay in the game until halftime but soon after the outcome was decided when first Rusescu finished a fine move started by a raking crossfield pass by Breeveld.
Then Popa cut in from the right and struck a great left foot shot in-off the ‘woodwork.

That was game over but the ‘U’ ultras kept on singing and they even woke up the Steaua fans with a  ‘Dinamo’ chant.

But the ‘Red and Blues’ had the last word and they could celebrate a record 22nd Cup victory and it left Universitatea having to wait at least 51 years for another such triumph.

Despite being told the metro would still be running past the usual 11 o’clock this turned out not to be the case so I had to get a taxi back to the hotel where I calmed down with a couple of glasses of red wine.

more pictures at

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