After returning his side to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, coach Gheorghe Hagi is setting FC Steaua Bucureşti's sights even higher than last year. "The next target is to qualify for the Round of 16," he said on Wednesday.
Last season Steaua finished third in their group - an achievement which triggered a UEFA Cup run that was ended by eventual winners Sevilla FC. And there was delight in Bucharest as the Romanian outfit earned another shot at the big time after coming through a tough examination at the hands of BATE Borisov FC. After weathering early storms in both halves Dorel Zagaria and Adrian Neaga sparked the festivities by scoring the all-important goals that gave Steaua a 4-2 aggregate win.
BATE's Dmitri Platonov came close to scoring on three occasions only to be denied by a combination of errant finishing, good defending and alert goalkeeping but in the end Hagi's men held out and Hagi is now determined to raise the bar. "I am happy," he said. "We have achieved our goal and qualified. That is the most important thing. It's true that at times we suffered against a very good team but in the end we proved that we are much better. My players fought hard and deserved to qualify. The next target is to qualify for the Round of 16."
BATE coach Ihar Kryushenko was generous in defeat, admitting that over the two legs Steaua were worthy victors. "Congratulations to Steaua," he said. "The Romanians deserved to go through. There were times in the match when we played very well, better even than our opponents. But overall Steaua deserve to qualify and I am satisfied with our performance in this match and throughout qualifying."
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