FC Rapid Bucuresti 2-0 NK Gorica
Romania's FC Rapid Bucuresti scored a goal in each half to give themselves the edge in their UEFA Cup qualifying round tie against NK Gorica of Slovenia.
In rainy conditions, Rapid proved the more attacking force, veteran midfield player Ioan Sabau dominating in the middle, and inspiring the attacks that eventually gave the home team victory.
Rapid moved forward from the off, but they found a tall and well-organised Gorica defence marshalled by captain Sretrnic Miran hard to break down, the hosts being limited to long shots early on. Constantin Schumacher was Rapid's main threat, and he forced Gorica goalkeeper Mitja Pirih into the first of several good saved from a fifth-minute effort.
Home goalkeeper Emilian Dolha was himself called into action to save a long-range shot from Darko Kremenovic, but Rapid's efforts were rewarded in the 17th minute when Sabau crossed from the right, and Schumacher controlled the ball to shoot past Pirih.
Dolha pulled off another good stop on 28 minutes from Gorica's Robert Deztezadki, and the away side began to look more comfortable for the rest of the first haf, as Rapid's attacks dried up.
Pirih saves again
However, after the break, Rapid stepped up the pace. Florin Bradu shot narrowly wide two minutes into the second half, and just before the hour Pirih was forced to act to deny Daniel Niculae.
But Gorica could not hold out indefinitely, and Schumacher made it two on 72 minutes, not long after being denied again by Pirih, when he converted a penalty after substitute Róbert Ilyes was fouled by Gorica's Madej Mavric. Sabau had a shot saved by Pirih in the final minute, but the two-goal cushion for the second leg in a fortnight had been secured by Rapid.
After the game, Rapid coach Mircea Rednic said: "I have a young and inexperienced team and that is why I am pleased with the 2-0 scoreline. To have a good chance in the second leg we must be attentive and careful because the Slovenians are dangerous. I would like to congratulate my young players, who kept cool heads when their instinct told them to go for a third goal."
’Go for victory’
Gorica coach Pavel Pinni admitted: "This is football – if you miss chances then you are punished. Rapid are now favourites, but we need to go for victory in the second leg, and we are going to, but it will be difficult because Rapid are very fast and good on the counter-attack."