Roma Cruise Past CFR Cluj in Europa League Match-Up

On a foggy night in Cluj, Romania’s champions CFR took on Serie A’s Roma in a replay of Matchday 3 in the Europa League. Then, an energized Roma, playing on home soil, all but dismantled CFR by a 5-0 scoreline. With one month since the original encounter, Dan Petrescu’s men took to the field anxious to restore some of their pride.

If Roma feared beforehand that the result was in jeopardy, their squad selection did not show it. Paulo Fonseca opted for an offensive 3-4-2-1 formation but made significant changes from the team that met Parma on the weekend. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pedro, and Jordan Veretout were not included in the starting XI.

On the other end, Dan Petrescu opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation that emphasized CFR Cluj’s defensive-minded approach. It was this strategy that paid off for the first 45 minutes.

The Italians attacked through the middle, but, nearly inevitably, found themselves searching for a through-pass in-between the rows of bodies hovering around the penalty area. On the rare occasion that Cluj won the ball back, they tried shuttling it forward toward Alexandru Paun or Gabriel Debeljuh.

Sensing, perhaps, that Cluj is a team that can carry out their knuckle-down defensive approach for a full 90 minutes, Roma began the second half on the offensive. Their positive strategy soon paid off. The Italians earned a free-kick from just outside the box, which was whipped in and deflected by Gabriel Debeljuh into his own net.

For the first time in the game the Romanians found themselves forced to attack. However, Roma managed to retain possession and slowed down the pace. An opportunity presented itself in the 65th minute when the newly introduced Mkhitaryan was taken down by goalkeeper Cristian Balgradean in the penalty box. Veretout, who had also entered as a substitute converted the spot-kick.

With a mountain to climb, CFR devoted themselves to pushing forward even more. The Romanians increased the level of pressure and even added a second striker. However, most of the offensive plays ended up being carried out on the wings. This resulted in crosses that rarely met their target and long-distance shots that did little to challenge goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Roma saw out the rest of the match and bagged the three points. This should most likely be enough to carry the Italians through to the knock-out stage of the competition. Fonseca’s team never appeared to lose control of the match.

Still, CFR’s players were not the pushovers they appeared to be earlier in the month. Petrescu is a competent manager. And, even though few of his squad members possess much flair, they are an organized and hard-working unit.

With two games left to play, the Romanian champions trail Young Boys by three points and Roma by six. Victories against the Swiss side and CSKA Sofia are certainly more realistic targets than a triumph against Roma.

The Giallorossi are currently third in Serie A and just finding their pacing. It’s going to be a long season, but one in which Fonseca’s men look fully prepared to do great things.



November 26, 2020 – Europa League 2020-21 Group Stage

SCORERS: 48′ Debeljuh (o.g.), 62′ Veretout (pen.)

CFR CLUJ (4-2-3-1): Balgradean; Susic, Manea, Burca, Camora; Djokovic, Itu (50′ Chipciu); Rondon, Paun-Alexandru (70′ Carnat), Pereira; Debeljuh (70′ Vojtus) (Checiches, Ciobotariu, Haiduc, Joca, Latovlevici, Sandomierski) Coach: Petrescu
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Pau Lopez; Spinazzola (63′ Mkhitaryan), Cristante, Jesus; Peres, Villar, Diawara (76′ Milanese), Calafiori; Pellegrini (46′ Veretout), Perez (83′ Tripi); Boria Mayoral (63′ Dzeko) (Mirante, Berti, Ciervo, Karsdorp, Pedro) Coach: Fonseca

REFEREE: Lechner (Austria)
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Itu, Paun-Alexandru, Djokovic, Camora, Burca (C), Diawara, Dzeko (R); Extra Time: First Half 0′, Second Half 4′

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