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Steaua too strong for Aktobe

FC Steaua Bucureşti 2-1 FC Aktobe (agg: 4-3)
Constantin Gâlcă's men remain on track to repeat last season's group stage appearance after seeing off the Kazakh champions. 

Nicolae Stanciu is hoisted aloft after scoring Steaua's second
Nicolae Stanciu is hoisted aloft after scoring Steaua's second ©Cosmin Iftobe

First-half goals from Alexandru Chipciu and Nicolae Stanciu propelled FC Steaua Bucureşti toward the UEFA Champions League play-offs at FK Aktobe's expense.

Chipciu hit the third-minute opener and set up Stanciu to make it 2-0 on 39 minutes, while Kazakstan's champions were twice denied by Steaua goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis before the break. The dismissal of Yuri Logvinenko for a second bookable offence lengthened the odds against Aktobe, but Timur Kapadze struck late for the visitors to ensure a nervy finish for the Romanian side.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Steaua took control at home when Chipciu launched a fine early counterattack, delivering the ball to Adrian Popa and then darting into the penalty area to meet his team-mate's cross from the right with a low shot. However, while Steaua dominated, Aktobe had chances, Popa's back-pass inviting Olexiy Antonov to run on goal, Arlauskis doing well to block his shot.

Chipciu's class showed again six minutes before the interval as his ball from the left sat up nicely for Stanciu to finish from six metres, but Aktobe nearly replied again, Arlauskis making an unbelievable double save after Anderson Miniero found himself clean through on goal.

Logvinenko's dismissal for a second bookable offence on 57 minutes did not entirely kill off the visitors' ambitions, though. Aktobe got back into the game after Kapadze's 85th-minute shot took a favourable deflection off Lucian Filip, with Steaua made to sweat for their success at the end.