Serban Dacian Varga scored FC Unirea Urziceni's first ever goal in UEFA club competition to secure a valuable point against VfB Stuttgart in the second round of matches in UEFA Champions League Group G.
Having failed to find the net in their first three European outings, the Romanian champions made the worst possible start to their first home fixture in the European Champion Clubs' Cup, Serdar Tasci taking advantage of some slack marking to give Stuttgart a fifth-minute lead. Three minutes after half-time, however, it was the German side's turn to be punished for defensive failings – Markus Babbel's team also having let slip a lead against Rangers FC on Matchday 1 – with Varga's eye-catching strike a fitting way to get Unirea off the mark in their first UEFA Champions League campaign.
Stuttgart clearly saw a profitable route in putting Unirea under immediate pressure and seeking to exploit any nervousness among the Romanian champions' ranks. On the front foot from the kick-off, the visitors threatened to take advantage of some indecisive defending in the first minute, Roberto Hilbert shooting into the side-netting. The warning had been served but was not heeded and Unirea were caught flat-footed as the ball was pumped in high from the right. Timo Gebhart climbed to apply a crucial header down and Tasci, a step ahead of his markers, pounced to take full advantage.
Hope for Unirea
It was not the scenario Unirea coach Dan Petrescu had envisaged but even though the Stuttgart threat remained alive with Thomas Hitzlsperger trying his luck with his right foot, there was still plenty to keep the home crowd hopeful. Ricardo Vilana was a driving force in midfield where Iulian Apostol's craft in possession also won valuable space and time. Out wide Varga posed considerable difficulties for Stuttgart with his deliveries from the left and when he sent another across in the 24th minute Tiberiu Bălan, coming in off the other flank, moved menacingly towards the ball only for Arthur Boka to make a crucial clearance.
The second period mirrored the first for early drama. After a strong run from Pavel Pogrebnyak had been halted, Unirea immediately went on the offensive and drew encouragement from Stuttgart's inability to clear their lines. Gebhart undid his earlier good work by putting his defence under more pressure and when the ball eventually found its way to Varga he produced a sublime curling shot beyond the reach of Jens Lehmann.
The Unirea support were now in full voice as the excitement mounted. Pogrebnyak drilled in a low shot which Giedrius Arlauskis did well to hold before Varga passed up another opening while Ciprian Marica, back in his hometown and keen to impress, missed the chance to make a decisive impact when he lifted the ball over from close range. Hilbert also proved wasteful from a similar position, leaving Stuttgart to contemplate a home game with Sevilla FC on Matchday 3 when Unirea visit Rangers.