FC Steaua Bucureşti shook off some early-season lethargy with a narrow win at Strømsgodset IF as they began their bid to emulate last term's run from the second qualifying round to the UEFA Champions League group stage.
With the Romanian title holders on the back foot for much of the first half in Drammen, Gabriel Iancu broke the deadlock with a fine lob just after the restart. Øyvind Storflor went close late on but there was no way back for a tiring Strømsgodset side who introduced 15-year-old Martin Ødegaard late on. They have it all to do in Bucharest next Tuesday.
While this was Steaua's second competitive game of the campaign, Norwegian champions Strømsgodset are halfway through their league defence. At home they have been almost untouchable, winning eight and drawing one in all competitions, and they provided some evidence in a vibrant first-half performance.
Francisco Júnior typified the hunger. He collected balls in front of the back line, sprayed passes and stealthy dispossessed any Steaua players with the temerity to approach the final third. The visiting side dropped deeper and deeper, the movement of Storflor, Iver Fossum and Flamur Kastrati adding a further headache.
Storflor was involved in two excellent chances before half-time. First, on the left, he teed up Marvin Ogunjimi for a cleanly hit effort tipped over by Giedrius Arlauskis. Five minutes later he popped up on the right to meet Kastrati's cross but could not keep his header down. There was not much for the 200 or so Steaua fans to shout about but, at 0-0, shout they did.
Four minutes after half-time they really made a noise as Iancu lifted the ball over goalkeeper Adam Larsen. Suddenly it was Steaua who had a spring in their step, and Alexandru Chipciu and Robert Vâlceanu both squandered one-on-one situations. Strømsgodset are down but not out.