Sheriff set punishing pace

Monthly review: Title-holders FC Sheriff have reasserted their authority in Moldova's First Division.

By Miron Goihman

With away wins against their two main rivals in the last month, FC Sheriff are ruling the roost in Moldova.

Familiar leaders
After seven games of the First Division season, 1-0 victories at FC Nistru Otaci and CSF Zimbru Chisinau have helped the reigning champions maintain their traditional place at the top of the league, four points ahead of Nistru.

Cocis goals
Sheriff have made wholesale changes since last term, but new young players Razvan Cocis and Gheorghe Florescu from Romania, Georgian Teimuraz Burnadze and Moldovan recruit Alexandr Epureanu have settled in well. Cocis in particular has made a name for himself, scoring the winners against both Nistru and Zimbru.

Matiura factor
Second-placed Nistru have lost two matches this season - against Sheriff and Zimbru - but remain optimistic under new coach Alexandr Matiura. The team have plenty of stability, but their major disadvantage is that they lack the funds to attract top-class players.

Zimbru exodus
A similar problem afflicts Zimbru, who lost key men before the start of the campaign. Striker Vladimir Shishelov returned home to Uzbekistan, midfield player Eugen Bastina went back to Romania, while 18-year-old prodigy Epureanu joined Sheriff. Experienced forwards Serghey Chirilov and Serghey Clescenco have been brought in to replace them.

Mid-table struggle
Zimbru are in third place ahead of FC Dacia Chisinau, FC Tiligul Tiraspol and FC Tiraspol who are all level on eight points. Those three sides are desperate to secure a place in European competition and have been seeking the signings that will make the difference.

Nesteruk on top
Brazilian striker Mauricio Lorigon may prove a very important buy for Tiligul, but perhaps the star of the season so far has been Ukrainian frontman Andriy Nesteruk who moved to Tiraspol from Sheriff and leads the scoring charts with six strikes.

Relegation dogfight
At the foot of the table, FC Unisport-Auto Chisinau and CS Steaua Chisinau have taken up their predicted places in the relegation zone, thanks to ongoing financial problems. Experienced players make up the core of Steaua Chisinau's team while Unisport have looked further afield, using five Nigerians in seven games so far.