Coach Ioan Andone said CFR 1907 Cluj's title success in Romania marked the end of "a real battle in the true sense of the word" as he celebrated on Wednesday.
CFR, from the heart of Transylvania, claimed the league for the first time in their 101-year history last night, the final day of the season, as a 1-0 win against neighbours FC Universitatea Cluj maintained their one-point advantage over FC Steaua Bucureşti. It was relief for Andone, whose side were eleven points clear at the winter break but almost lost the title to Steaua in the closing stages.
"It was a very tense championship," said Andone, who previously won the title at FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti. "A real battle in the true sense of the word. Of course, every title you win is special, but this one is more special because it was won by a team from outside Bucharest. We were stronger than Steaua and that lead we had at the end of the first half of the season was decisive."
It is the first time since FC Universtitatea Craiova's success in 1990/91 that the Divizia A title has left the Romanian capital, with a substantial contingent of foreign players playing a large part in their success. Tellingly it was a Portuguese player, Cadú, who scored the penalty on Wednesday night which saw CFR beat Universitatea Cluj. It made Steaua's triumph against FC Gloria Buzău meaningless, and for their coach Marius Lăcătuş the title was lost in the previous game when a 2-1 defeat by Dinamo saw Steaua lose top spot to their rivals. "The match against Dinamo was decisive and unfortunately we could not earn even one point, which would have assured us of the title," said the former Romanian international.
While CFR will head into the UEFA Champions League group stage, Steaua could yet join them as they earn a place in the third qualifying round. AFC Rapid Bucureşti and Dinamo finished third and fourth, and much credit goes to AFC Unirea Valahorum Urziceni and FC Politehnica 1921 Ştiinţa Timişoara who finished fifth and sixth. At the bottom of the table, FC Ceahlăul Piatra Neamt, CS Dacia Mioveni, FCM UTA Arad and CFM Universitatea Cluj have all been relegated, with two of the four teams set to win promotion already known – FC Brasov and FC Argeş Piteşti. CS Otopeni and CS Gaz Metan Mediaş are favourites to join them.
Meanwhile, CFR's 38-year-old owner Arpad Paszkany has big plans for the future, saying: "The investment will continue. We will sign very good players for modest sums because we can give them the chance to play in the Champions League. I hope that one day we will win a European trophy. I hope that I will not be all that old when we achieve this."
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