Claudiu Raducanu was again the scourge of English fortunes in the UEFA Cup as his second-half equaliser in atrocious conditions earned FC Steaua Bucuresti a deserved second round first-leg draw against Liverpool FC.
A strike from French defender Djimi Traore had given four-times European champions Liverpool a vital away goal, but Steaua, who themselves won club football's greatest prize in 1985/86, refused to be beaten. They levelled through Raducanu, who scored twice against Liverpool's Premiership rivals Southampton FC in the first round.
Heavy rain throughout the day in Bucharest had left the pitch in a parlous state, but it was the visiting side that adapted quickest to the conditions. Although both teams had plenty of skilful players on view, it was more a night for grit than glamour.
After a lively opening, Liverpool took the lead in the 22nd minute. Traore was on hand to score from 15 metres after Steaua failed to clear a corner. The 23-year-old shot from the left side of the penalty area into the opposite corner of Vasili Khomutovski's goal
Liverpool nearly doubled their lead four minutes later. English international midfield player Steven Gerrard sent Harry Kewell clear with a clever pass and the Australian looked certain to score after rounding Khomutovski. However, Steaua captain Mirel Radoi was on hand to make a last-ditch clearance.
Steaua, unbeaten in ten domestic games, were nearly level in the 36th minute as he pounced on a back-pass from John Arne Riise gave Raducanu a chance to shoot, only to be denied by Dudek. Riise nearly made amends two minutes later but put his header wide from close range. Steaua continued to attack and had two excellent opportunities just before the interval through Daniel Ionut Oprita and Marian Aliuta, only for Dudek to stand firm.
Liverpool went close again after the break with Riise again heading wide. Steaua coach Victor Piturca was prompted into action and sent on midfield player Adrian Pitu. The replacement was immediately in the thick of things and it was his pass in the 68th minute that freed Raducanu for the equaliser.
Steaua nearly took the lead in the 74th minute, as Dorel Mutica fired a volley goalwards. Dudek just about got a hand to it and pushed it on to the crossbar and to safety. Liverpool's recently-appointed captain Gerrard then went close with a free-kick. It was end-to-end stuff and Adrian Neaga could have won the match for the Romanian side at the end, only to head over with the goal gaping to leave things level ahead of the return at Anfield on 27 November.
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