SC Vaslui coach Cristian Dulca was delighted that his players "did exactly what I told them" as the modest Romanian side reached a new European high with a 2-1 home win against Dušan Bajević's AEK Athens FC.
Two goals from Wesley – the second a penalty – saw a side who were formed just seven years ago take an important step towards qualifying for the UEFA Europa League group stage to the delight of the 36-year-old Dulca: "I knew we were up against very strong opponents, coached by a man with a lot of experience. I warned my players about all of this. I have to praise all of my side; they formed a real group and did exactly what I told them."
With a population of just 70,000, Vaslui is the third smallest city represented in the Romanian top division, and the success of the local club has been a real boon for a region which has experienced significant economic problems in recent years. Promoted to the top division for the first time in 2005, Vaslui's league finishes have improved year on year, with last season's fifth spot representing their best yet.
Financed by former referee Adrian Porumboiu, who has made his money in agriculture, Vaslui also remain unbeaten in two seasons in Europe. They made their debut in the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2008, progressing to the UEFA Cup where they bowed out in the first round on away goals after two draws against SK Slavia Praha. This time around they ousted AC Omonia in the third qualifying round, and the AEK win leaves them unbeaten in nine European games.
This latest success was all the more unexpected as former Romania defender Dulca was unable to call on five regulars, with Gabriel Cânu and Hugo Luz injured, goalkeeper Dušan Kuciak and Bogdan Buhuş suspended, and Lucian Burdujan removed from the squad for disciplinary reasons on the day of the match. As a result, the Vaslui bench featured only six substitutes – one less than the seven permitted – but Brazilian Wesley came up trumps regardless.
AEK fleetingly threatened, but Vaslui managed to contain them and if they can do that again in the Greek capital next week the group stage will beckon. "We have to be realistic and keep our feet on the ground," warned Dulca. "We will have an extremely difficult second leg and qualification is in no way decided. It will be vital to stay totally focused, as we were today."
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