PART 2-TOP 3 BEST MOMENTS 3.GAZ METAN MEDIAS ELIMINATES A BUNDESLIGA SIDE Gaz Metan Medias is not a big name in Romanian soccer,but it was definitely a pleasant surprise in the past few years when they played a very offensive style of football which gained them the appreciation of many soccer fans,and the reward for their efforts came in an unexpected UEFA Europa League berth;they finished the last season in 7th place,but they benefited from the fact that Romanian vice champions FC Timisoara didnít receive thelicense for the next season and they were not only relegated,but also excluded by UEFA from European competitions.That event allowed Gaz Metan to play in Europe for the first time in its history. Gaz Metan began its European road with a success by eliminating Finnish team Kups Kuopio in the second preliminary round of UEFA Europa League,and thus they earned their right to face Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 in the next round.Mainz,although unexperienced in Europe,was however the revelation of the previous edition of the mighty Bundesliga,which they finished in 5th place,a remarkable achievement for them,and they were strong favorites against Gaz Metan,but the Romanians showed that they had no fear of their opponents and played a very courageous and offensive game in the first leg in Germany,managing to obtain a 1-1 draw.As expected,the second leg was even more difficult;Mainz took the lead,but the home team didnít abandon the fight and Jordanian player Bawab scored the equalizer that would take the game to extra time and eventually to penalties,where Romanian goalkeeper Plesca,who had already saved many difficult balls,made two saves and became the hero of that wonderful summer night,allowing his team to qualify for the next round. Even if Gaz Metanís first European adventure ended in the next round,the Europa League play-off,when they were eliminated by Austria Wien,the elimination of a Bundesliga team remains one of the most memorable moments in the history of this small Romanian club. 2.FC VASLUI FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE GROUP STAGES OF EUROPA LEAGUE Moldavian side FC Vaslui wasnít favorite to win the European League play-off against Sparta Prague for several reasons,including tradition which was obviously an advantage for the much more experienced Czechs and the fact that FC Vaslui had an interdiction to make transfers during the summer period;what was worse,several key players were injured before the double confrontation,so Sparta Prague was expected to go further,but against all odds the improvised squad from Vaslui made a fabulous game in the first leg,which they won by 2-0 thanks to goals scored by Temwanjera and Milanov,and even if they were under pressure in the second leg in Prague,they only conceded one goal and finally,after three consecutive failed attempts,managed to qualify for the first time in the group stages of the Europa League. FC Vaslui didnít stop here;they caused even more sensation in a group in which nobody expected them to fight for the first two positions.And yet,thanks to remarkable players like veteran Adailton,Romanian defender Papp and midfielder Sanmartean and young Lithuanian goalkeeper Cerniauskas,they managed to obtain some remarkable results:a 1-0 home win against Sporting Lisbon,the winner of the group,and two draws(2-2 and 0-0)against Lazio Rome,so despite the fact that team had been constantly plagued by injuries and suspensions,they had their destiny in their own hands before the decisive match.Unfortunately,as I have shown in my previous article,they failed when least expected and lost in Zurich(2-0) but nevertheless FC Vaslui wrote a golden page in
the history of the club and brought some unexpected and much needed points for Romania,which was constantly losing ground in UEFA rankings in the past seasons 1.STEAUA BUCHAREST QUALIFIES FOR THE LAST 32 IN EUOPA LEAGUE If thereís one team in which Romanian soccer fans are entitled top have high hopes in European competitions,that team can only be Steaua Bucharest,a team which saved the honour of Romanian soccer in Europe in countless occasions,and they did it again this season by reaching theíEuropean springí,as it is said in Romania whenever a team goes past the group stages of European competitions.It was an achievement for which Steaua had to fight hard and which seemed unlikely at a certain moment.First,there was the play-off against CSKA Sofia,which was expected to be quite a difficult opponent,but Steaua made things easier with excellent evolutions in both legs(2-0 an 1-1). Steaua began the group stage with another good match against mighty German side Schalke 04,and managed to obtain a draw against the Champions League semifinalists from 2011.Then came a less impressive performance in Cyprus against AEK Larnaca,a game in which Steaua was quite lucky to obtain a draw(1-1),and then came the nightmare in Haifa(0-5),certainly one of the most shameful matches in Steauaís history.Anyway,at that moment the second match between Steaua and Maccabi Haifa was crucial,because Steaua had only 2 points,while the Israelis already had six.Luckily Steaua won that match(4-2),and that confrontation will also be remembered as the first ever win for a Romanian team in the newly built National Arena,the impressive stadium which hosts the UEFA Europa League 2012 final. In the next round Steaua travelled to Gelsenkirchen knowing that if they lost and Maccabi won in Larnaca,it would be all over,and they were defeated in Germany(2-1),but luckily and unexpectedly Maccabi was also defeated in Cyprus,so before the final round three teams were fighting for the second place:Maccabi with 6 points,Steaua and AEK Larnaca with 5 points.The match between Steaua and AEK was full of suspense;Raul Rusescu opened the score from a penalty kick for Steaua,but the visitors didnít give up and managed to equalize,but the striker from Montenegro,Stefan Nikolic,became the hero of the day after scoring a double that would bring the 50,000 Steaua fans,an incredible number of spectators for a match against an anonymous opponent.However,that 3-1 win meant nothing if Maccabi won the match against an already qualified German team.Luckily,even if they sent a squad made up mostly of substitutes,the Germans proved that honor is important to them and won in Haifa(3-0),destroying the illusions of the Israeli fans and allowing Steaua to qualify for the last 32 in the Europa League. The achievement Steaua managed to obtain made many fans dream that the evolution from 2006,when Romanian giants reached the semifinals of the UEFA Cup,might be equalized or even improved,and it would be great to have a Romanian team in the final in National Arena in Bucharest in May 2012,but itís hard to believe that Steaua can go that far in a competition in which there are still many powerful teams.However,we have the right to dream,and even if Steaua doesnít get past its next opponent,FC Twente Enschede,it still deserves to be appreciated because once again it managed to keep the flag up for Romania in European competitions.