By Paul-Daniel Zaharia at Ghencea stadium
FC Steaua Bucuresti and Villarreal CF played out an entertaining goalless draw in the rearranged first leg of their UEFA Cup Round of 16 encounter. After the first meeting between these clubs had been postponed due to snow, Villarreal returned to Romania for a second attempt and will be relieved to return home undefeated.
The Primera División side could have found themselves behind inside the first two minutes but Sorin Paraschiv failed to connect well enough with the industrious Daniel Oprita's neat assist. Steaua even had the ball in the net eight minutes later, but Nicolae Dica's effort was disallowed for offside.
Andrei Cristea headed into Villarreal goalkeeper José Manuel Reina's arms on 26 minutes before the visitors, with José Mari Romero, Luciano Figueroa and Santiago Cazorla impressing, came into their own. Cazorla shot narrowly wide from distance on the half-hour mark and Luciano saw his bicycle-kick saved by Vasili Khomutovski five minutes later before José Mari shot wide.
With half-time approaching, Cristea squandered a gilt-edged chance to give the Romanian side a half-time interval lead, taking too long to shoot when one-on-one with Reina. Laurentiu Dinita could have made amends five minutes after the restart but headed Dorinel Munteanu's perfect cross wide of the target.
Dinita shot wide again midway through the second half and he was almost made to pay for the miss when Villarreal broke on the counterattack ten minutes from time. But both Luciano and Juan Sorín failed to hit the target from close range and a pulsating game between two talented teams ended goalless, leaving all to play for in Sunday's second leg.