FC Unirea Urziceni's first home win in European competition could not have been better timed as Dan Petrescu's UEFA Champions League debutants closed in on a place in the knockout phase with a battling victory over Group G leaders Sevilla FC.
Already through to the last 16, the Spanish side fell behind to a bizarre Ivica Dragutinović own goal on the cusp of half-time, but their first defeat of this campaign did not come without a fight. Doggedly the Romanian titleholders clung on, even when substitutes Luis Fabiano and Ndri Romaric were wreaking havoc, to set up a titanic showdown with VfB Stuttgart in a fortnight. A point in Germany would see Unirea through.
The home support ended the night as they had begun it, creating a noisy, passionate atmosphere. It had almost yielded an immediate response after kick-off as Pablo Brandán forced the ball in after Iulian Apostol's free-kick had brought panic to Sevilla's defence. However, Marius Bilasco had been standing offside. It would be some time before Unirea threatened again as Sevilla took affront to their aggressive start. The Andalusians were soon dictating their own tempo, diligently passing among themselves and awaiting openings. One duly arrived as Abdoulay Konko advanced from right-back and fired over a cross which Frédéric Kanouté, returning after injury, diverted on to the near post. Strike partner Álvaro Negredo – playing in place of the rested Fabiano – hit the woodwork himself with a header from a tight angle midway through the half.
Dan Petrescu's team were giving their heart and soul but they struggled to develop enough momentum to worry Sevilla consistently. The alarm was at the other end as Diego Capel raided with pace and skill, his low shot finding defender Ersin Mehmedović in the way with the goal under threat. The interval beckoned but from an innocuous position Unirea took an unlikely lead. Brandán's free-kick from near halfway was too advanced for his attackers yet, under no pressure, Dragutinović, headed into his own net. If that was a lucky break for the hosts, the second half would be testament to their hard work as they maintained the advantage under heavy siege. Negredo somehow cleared the bar following a fierce free-kick and Fabiano's introduction just past the hour was the signal for Sevilla to step on the gas again.
Unirea were left praying for another goal on break, and Serban Varga almost delivered with an effort that called on all Javi Varas's reflexes to repel it. Varga found the side-netting after another counterattack and then, just when Brandán's left-wing cross seemed perfectly tailored for the lurking Bilasco, a Dragutinović interception this time had positive benefits for his team. By now Romaric had joined the fray and he threatened to crush Unirea hopes as he made inroads down the left. But every cross, every pass, was desperately swallowed up by the white shirts. They would soon be saluting a famous triumph, though not before Gierdrius Arlauskis had pulled off a great save to deny Konko in added time and Fabiano had slammed into the side-netting.