By Paul-Daniel Zaharia at Ghencea stadium
UEFA Cup holders Valencia CF were eliminated from this season's competition as FC Steaua Bucuresti cancelled out a two-goal first-leg deficit before holding their nerve in the penalty shoot-out.
With driving rain making the Ghencea pitch heavy, Steaua coach Walter Zenga opted to pair Laurentiu Dinita and Andrei Cristea up front and the decision produced dividends as the latter hit two second-half goals to take the tie to extra time and ultimately penalties. The shoot-out began well for Valencia, with goalkeeper Andrés Palop saving Steaua's opener from Dorinel Munteanu but that proved their lone failure and misses from Rubén Baraja and Marco Di Vaio saw the home side triumph.
The pacy Cristea's selection was a warning of attacking intent by Steaua and less than four minutes were gone when Nicolae Dica headed against the post. The home side were rampant and Petre Marin and George Ogararu both tested Palop before Daniel Oprita produced a cute pass to Cristea in space on 34 minutes but Palop was again alert.
With Di Vaio, Stefano Fiore and Pablo Aimar all rested, Valencia offered little in return and seemed content to sit on their aggregate lead until Cristea reduced the deficit five minutes after the interval, opportunistically slotting past Palop. Still, the Spanish champions seemed unperturbed and it was not until the 20-year-old drew the sides level after latching on to another long ball, that they upped the tempo.
Di Vaio and Mista both came on and the latter twice went close at the start of extra time, but penalties resulted. Steaua had dominated the game from the kick-off and were not about to let their effort go to waste.
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