History will be made in the Romanian Cup final after traditional heavyweights FC Steaua București and surprise package FC Astra Giurgiu made it through to the 23 May showpiece.
Astra reached the final for the first time in their history as they overcame FC Petrolul Ploiești 2-1 over two legs while Steaua, the current champions and record 21-time cup winners, joined them a day later by completing a 6-3 aggregate triumph against city rivals FC Dinamo Bucureşti. Those results mean that the Romanian season can draw to a close with either a new name on the trophy or an end to the 17-year wait for Steaua to complete the domestic double again.
While Steaua's progression to the final was fairly serene, Astra were pushed to the limit in their tie with Petrolul. The cup holders had been held to a goalless draw in their home leg but broke the deadlock in the return through Toto Tamuz's first-half effort and, though Astra captain Constantin Budescu (52) levelled, elimination for his side still beckoned until a frantic finish. Petrolul substitute Vlad Morar's appearance lasted just four minutes as he received an 85th-minute red card for a second booking and the hosts took advantage as Paul Papp's header four minutes into added time confirmed a dramatic turnaround.
Both legs of the Steaua-Dinamo semi-final were played at the National Arena, with the champions firmly in command after a 5-2 first-leg triumph in which Laurenţiu Reghecampf's charges struck four times before the interval. Cristian Tănase's goal midway through the first half of the decisive meeting rubber-stamped Steaua's ticket to the showpiece although they were denied another victory late on by Cosmin Matei.
The two finalists will both hope to seal the league title before they meet again in May, with second-placed Astra striving to overhaul a six-point deficit and pick up their maiden Romanian championship.
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