Mugurel Buga's second-half strike proved decisive as AFC Rapid Bucuresti edged into the UEFA Cup quarter-finals on away goals following an absorbing 3-1 defeat by Hamburger SV in Germany.
Buga also registered with two minutes remaining in the first leg, giving the Romanian team a two-goal cushion, but Hamburg clawed their way back into the tie at the AOL Arena. Benjamin Lauth raised home hopes with the opener midway through the first half, and by the interval Sergej Barbarez had brought the Bundesliga side level on aggregate. But Buga's 51st-minute effort left Thomas Doll's men needing to score twice and although Rafael van der Vaart managed one, a second proved elusive.
Instead Rapid's impressive European adventure continued, and this always looked likely after a bright opening as Buga posed an early threat to the Hamburg defence. The visitors were unable to marry possession with opportunities, however, and it was Hamburg who broke the deadlock midway through the half. A minute after Van der Vaart's blistering shot forced a fine save from Danut Coman, the Rapid back line failed to deal with Guy Demel's long throw-in and Lauth was on hand to fire in.
Twelve minutes later the tie was level as the influential Van der Vaart threaded the ball through to Barbarez, who rifled it into the roof of the net. With the tide firmly in the hosts' favour, Rapid coach Razvan Lucescu sought to stem the flow at the interval and brought on Valentin Marian Negru and Viorel Moldovan. The substitutions paid almost immediate dividends as Moldovan crossed for the lively Buga to nod in and leave Hamburg needing to score twice.
Van der Vaart then restored his team's two-goal advantage on the night, as well as their ambition, just after the hour, but with substitutes Naohiro Takahara and Bastian Reinhardt squandering good chances, Rapid held on.
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