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Mutu keeps Romania on top

Saturday, 4 September 2004

By Paul-Daniel Zaharia at the Ion Oblemenco stadium

[1] Romania continued their winning FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 1 start with a victory against F.Y.R. Macedonia in Craiova - but only thanks to captain Adrian Mutu's late winner.

Romanian relief

[2] The Chelsea FC striker repeated his trick from his country's opening 2-1 win over Finland, scoring an 87th-minute free-kick. It brought great relief to the 12,000 spectators at the Ion Oblemenco after Aleksandar Vasovski had cancelled out Daniel Pancu's opener. The visitors ended the game with ten men after Velice Ĺ umulikoski was shown a second yellow card for unsporting behaviour a minute from time

Home advantage

[3] Romania started by far the stronger, with Mutu having already headed wide when Pancu opened the scoring on 14 minutes, firing low past Petar Milosevski in the Macedonian goal. More chances followed for the home side as they besieged Milosevski. But the keeper was equal to everything thrown at him, saving well from Pancu, Razvan Rat and Mutu's overhead kick.

Visitors' stirred

[4] F.Y.R. Macedonia held firm, however, and shortly before half-time showed their hosts they were not to be underestimated when the Romanian goalkeeper, Bogdan Lobont, saved brilliantly from Mile Krstev's deflected shot.

Confidence grows

[5] By then the visitors' confidence had started to grow. They looked particularly dangerous on the counterattack, with the speedy Artim Sakiri and Goran Pandev catching the eye. Romania, meanwhile, returned form the half-time break sluggish, and it was no more than F.Y.R. Macedonia deserved when Vasovski equalised on 74 minutes with a close-range header.

Mutu's last word

[6] But the home side managed to rouse themselves one more time, Mutu striking home from 22 metres after he had been fouled by Aleksandr Mitrevski. Romania now take their 100 per cent record to Andorra on Wednesday. F.Y.R. Macedonia, meanwhile, must wait until next month's visit of the Netherlands to try to add to the three points they already have following their opening win against Armenia.

Romania's Daniel Pancu (left) shoots under pressure