By Paul-Daniel Zaharia
FC Steaua Bucuresti were crowned champions of Romania for the 22nd time on Saturday after defeating sixth-placed FC Politehnica AEK Timisoara 2-1 at the Steaua stadium.
Despite a late drop in form, Steaua had held top spot since 30 October and went into the final day with a one-point lead over rivals FC Dinamo Bucuresti, needing victory to secure their first title since 2001 and a place in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round.
Things did not initially go Steaua's way as Gueye Mansour put the visiting side ahead with 26 minutes gone. Steaua hit back before the break through Andrea Cristea on 35 minutes and Nicolae Dica put them in front four minutes after the restart. That proved enough for Steaua and ensured that Dinamo's 1-0 win away to FC Arges Pitesti counted for little as the defending champions were forced to content themselves with second best this time around.
That will come as a disappointment for Ioan Andone's side who had cut into Steaua's six-point lead to set up a grandstand finish to the season. Cristian Pulhac’s 51st-minute winner did at least assure Dinamo finished second ahead of third-placed AFC Rapid Bucuresti whose challenge petered out with a goalless draw away to CF Sportul Studentesc.
Rapid also qualify for the UEFA Cup, despite finishing level on points with FC National Bucuresti, who ended the season in fourth spot after a 2-1 win at home to FCM Bacau. Both teams have 57 points, but Rapid took the European place as they had the better head-to-head result between the two sides.
In the day's other results, CFR Cluj defeated FC Brasov 2-1, FC Farul Constanta were 4-0 winners against FC Apulum Alba Iulia, CS Politehnica Iasi defeated FC Gloria 1922 Bistrita 1-0 and FC Otelul Galati were impressive 6-0 winners against FC Universitatea Craiova.
Craiova are relegated along with Apulum and Brasov while FC Vaslui, Pandurii Tg.Jiu and Jiul Petrosani are promoted. Vaslui and Pandurii will enjoy their first seasons in the top flight next term.
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