The headline in Romanian newspaper Pro Sport this morning says it all: "A Magical Night". Thursday's UEFA Cup matches brought joy unconfined to the Romanian capital as AFC Rapid Bucuresti, FC Steaua Bucuresti and FC Dinamo Bucuresti all recorded fine first-leg results in their first-round ties.
As Pro Sport put it: "Rapid and even more so Steaua and Dinamo have real chances of qualifying for the UEFA Cup group stage. Steaua thrashed Vålerenga [IF 3-0], Dinamo humiliated Everton [FC 5-1] and Rapid were equal to the mighty Feyenoord [securing a 1-1 draw] in Rotterdam."
Another sports daily, Gazeta Sporturilor, could only echo those sentiments. Its headline was an object lesson in simplicity: "YES!". "It was a fantastic night for Romanian football," wrote the newspaper. "And there are signs that our clubs matter again and have something to say in Europe."
Similar ideas were expressed in Sport Total and all of today's conventional papers as they reflected on a remarkable evening. After years of underachievement in Europe, the capital giants all look ready to emulate Steaua's feat of reaching the last 16 of the UEFA Cup last season.
For Romanian Professional League president, Dumitru Dragomir, the three results were a positive affirmation of the state of the domestic game. "The three successes were possible also because Romanian players have not left the country to play abroad," he said.
The national team's 2-0 win against the Czech Republic in a FIFA World Cup qualifier on 3 September had already raised the spirits of Romanian supporters, and while everyone is aware that the second legs could still change everything, Thursday's games have been another major confidence boost.
None the less, the players involved are urging caution. "We must keep our feet on the ground," insisted Rapid midfielder Robert Ilyes. "Our qualification will be decided in Bucharest. We have played well away from home before and still not qualified."
Dinamo coach Ioan Andone was, however, keen to flaunt his side's achievement, saying: "We played a fantastic match, especially in the second half, which was the best we have played in my two and a half years as Dinamo coach. We were hard-working, we gave everything and now we are favourites."
'Anything can happen'
While Andone was still wary of a second-leg turnaround, warning that "in football anything can happen", Steaua captain Mirel Radoi was prepared to look ahead to a possible Romanian contingent in the group stage. "It would be good to have all three teams involved," he said.
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