With a goal in injury time, Romania’s 89th minute substitute Alexandru Chipciu has kept his team neck and neck with Hungary in the World Cup Qualifiers. The two teams went into tonight’s match in Budapest level on 9 points apiece and sharing second place in Group D, but with Hungary ranked ahead on goal difference. The match finished 2 – 2, with Adrian Mutu also scoring for Romania, leaving both teams on 10 points, behind The Netherlands, who lead the group with 15 points after the first five Group D games.
The teams started brightly with shots at both ends within 10 minutes, but it was Hungary that got the break through quarter of an hour into the match. Romania’s Vlad Chiriches’ hand ball gave away a free kick and Hungary capitalized, with the set piece setting up Vilmos Vanczak, who scored off a header to put the home team 1 – 0 ahead. Hungary and Romania kept up an attacking style of play throughout the rest of the half, with Mihai Pintilii and Adrian Mutu getting shots away, but at half-time, the score remained Hungary 1, Romania nil.
Romania looked hungry as the second half got underway, Mutu again looked lively and after earlier having a shot saved, he was brought down by Zsolt Korcsmár, winning Romania a penalty after 20 minutes of play in the second half. Mutu took the penalty himself and duly leveled the score. But just a few minutes later Dorin Goian fouled Zsolt Korcsmár giving Hungary a penalty. Balázs Dzsudzsák took the penalty and Hungary went ahead again. The game started to look scrappier in the final 20 minutes, with both teams conceding a number of free kicks.
Despite Romania’s efforts, no breakthrough came and as the game went into the final five minutes, it looked like being Hungary’s night. Alexandru Chipciu was brought on with just a minute left, replacing Mihai Pintilii, who’d had a quieter second half. It proved to be a match saving change; Adrian Mutu won a free kick, his shot was stopped, but Chipciu found a way through, beating Hungary’s keeper Gabor Kiraly with a strike to the bottom right corner. It was last play of the game and on the final whistle it was two goals apiece at Budapest’s Ferenc Puskas Stadium.
Romania have a tough match coming up next week when they take on The Netherlands in Amsterdam on March 26. At the halfway point of the qualifying stage, Romania are in a very good position, given the strength of the group. With a five point advantage, The Netherlands, barring a dramatic reversal in fortunes, look set to be group winners and thus qualify directly for the 2014 finals in Brazil. But Romania are in with a good shot at being one of the eight best runners-up from the nine European groups and so make it through to the play-offs. It won’t be easy – Hungary have been strong and look as thought they are able to match Romania goal for goal. Turkey, currently fourth in the group, cannot be ruled out either. They’ve had a poor start by their standards, but they are a strong team with a great history in international football.
Liam Lever, firstname.lastname@example.org
photo source: fifa.com