Banel Nicolita's strike in the first leg at the Giulesti stadium proved decisive as FC Steaua Bucuresti progressed to the UEFA Cup semi-finals on away goals following a 0-0 draw against AFC Rapid Bucuresti.
With the hosts needing only to keep a clean sheet at the Lia Manoliu stadium to earn a place in the last four, the second leg was dominated by defensive play with Razvan Lucescu's side failing to unpick a steadfast Steaua rearguard, following a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Steaua enjoyed the early running with Nicolae Dica directing a fifth-minute header wide of the right post. Rapid goalkeeper Danut Coman then make a firm save as Nicolita's free-kick found the head of Andrei Cristea and Cristea was soon causing further panic in the Rapid back line with a powerful drive which flew inches past the post. The visitors did eventually catch their first glimpse of goal soon after, with Mugurel Buga's free-kick rising just over the crossbar.
Rapid enjoyed another rare foray into the attacking third after 31 minutes as a teasing cross from Daniel Niculae was headed narrowly past the target by Buga. However, Steaua continued to have the edge over their city rivals and yet another free-kick before the interval, this time from Mirel Radoi, was dealt with by the agile Coman in the Rapid goal.
The home team continued their hunt for the opener in the second half and came close to taking the lead when Dorin Goian directed an in-swinging corner from Nicolita agonisingly wide from five metres. Another corner from Nicolita a few minutes later resulted in a drive from Dica which Coman did well to get a glove to.
Rapid were still struggling to get past a resolute Steaua defence but Buga should have done better with a 64th-minute header, which he steered over the bar, while Emil Dica drilled a 20-metre effort past the right post. However, as Rapid's frustration showed, it was Steaua who almost snatched a winner. Nicolita's free-kick five minutes from time found the head of Sorin Ghionea, only for the Steaua defender to waste a golden opportunity with the goal at his mercy.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.