Ciprian Marica may have declared beforehand that he "never wanted to play against a Romanian team" but the VfB Stuttgart forward was able to reflect on a job well done after helping his side earn a 2-0 win in the UEFA Champions League play-off opener at FC Timişoara on Tuesday night.
The Romanian international striker played his part by winning the first-half penalty – going down under a challenge from national-team colleague Costel Pantilimon – from which Timo Gebhart gave the visitors an advantage extended soon after by Aleksandr Hleb's fine solo effort. His efforts have helped leave Timişoara's hopes of reaching the group stage hanging by a thread yet he admitted there could be little room for sympathy with such a prize at stake. "I won the penalty that made it 1-0, but I would like to have done more. I always give everything for the team I play for," said Marica.
'Not qualified yet'
"Timişoara played well," he added, "but we played very well. I spoke with my compatriots in the opposition team during the match and after it, but what could I say to them? The fact is that Timişoara are a top-class team, but we had an excellent game." Given his knowledge of the opposition, Marica went on to stress that the tie was still not over. "I am happy but we are not through yet," he said. "We will have to play at the same level in the second leg, because in football everything is possible."
Timişoara may have got the better of an FC Shakhtar Donetsk side featuring two other Romanians, Mircea Lucescu and Răzvan Raţ, in the previous round, but this time the vast majority of the 23,446 spectators inside a noisy Dan Păltinişanu Stadium went home disappointed. Răzvan Lucescu, Marica's national coach, had no option but to look on the bright side, declaring that "Marica was excellent" and it was a view taken up by the striker's Stuttgart coach, Markus Babbel. "
Marica had an excellent game; he won the penalty which allowed us to open the scoring, he did other good things and worked extremely well defensively too." At least there was one Romanian who went home happy.
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