By Miron Goihman
FC Sheriff remain on course to maintain their monopoly of the Moldovan First Division title despite resuming the league campaign in mixed form.
Sheriff, Moldovan champions for four successive years, welcomed the resumption of league action on 16 March after a four-month lay-off with a 2-1 win away to FC Tiligul Tiraspol, stretching their lead at the top of the table to 13 points. But four days later they fell to their first defeat of the campaign, 3-2 at home to FC Tiraspol.
Normal service was resumed with a 1-0 defeat of FC Unisport-Auto Chisinau on 3 April. A goalless draw against second-placed FC Nistru Otaci the following week kept Sheriff seven points clear at the top with a game in hand - and well on course for their fifth straight title.
Nistru lost some key players during the winter break but remain Sheriff's closest challengers, nine points ahead of CSF Zimbru Chisinau in third. Zimbru strengthened their squad during the break and seemed to respond well to the changes as they won their first two matches after the resumption.
But defeat against Nistru, followed by a goalless draw with Tiraspol last week, saw them drop further off the pace. Zimbru supporters, however, still have one reason to cheer - the club's board have been giving out a free can of beer to every fan attending their games.
Former Olympique de Marseille player Igor Dobrovolski stole the headlines on 13 April when he took to the field for Tiligul for the first time in six years against Nistru in the semi-final of the Moldovan Cup. Serghey Ianciuc had fired Nistru into an early lead before the 37-year-old Tiligul player-coach brought himself on with 30 minutes remaining.
The former Soviet Union international showed no signs of being out of condition or form and duly converted a penalty on 88 minutes to salvage a draw for his team. In the other semi-final first leg, FC Dacia Chisinau overcame FC Politecnica Chisinau by a solitary goal.
The game saw two family members come face-to-face - Politecnica coach Ion Caras is the uncle of Dacia coach Emil Caras. But there was no love lost and Dacia midfield player Ghennadie Orbu scored the winning goal with 19 minutes remaining. The second legs will be played on 27 April.
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