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A nation shares Steaua's grief

Romania is mourning "the death of a dream" after FC Steaua Bucuresti's dramatic UEFA Cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Middlesbrough FC last night.

Romania is mourning the death of a dream after FC Steaua Bucuresti's dramatic UEFA Cup semi-final defeat against Middlesbrough FC.

Agonising defeat
Cosmin Olaroiu's side were on the verge of the final before Massimo Maccarone's 89th-minute goal earned the English side a 4-2 win on the night and a 4-3 aggregate victory in a tie they had trailed 3-0 midway through the first half at the Riverside stadium. "They destroyed us," read this morning's edition of national sports newspaper Pro Sport. "The English side scored the decisive goal in the 89th minute and destroyed the hopes of an entire nation. The UEFA Cup final was only a dream."

TV talk show
Romania's state TV channel scheduled a live talk show featuring the editors of Romania's two biggest sports papers, Gazeta Sporturilor and Pro Sport, as well as an important columnist from another daily Sport Total, immediately after the final whistle. Gazeta Sporturilor's editor-in-chief silently spoke for a nation when he showed the scrapped front page of the paper he had prepared to run this morning. It featured a one-word headline: "Magnificent."

Heart attack
Having come so close to glory, Steaua's agony was all the greater. When Gazeta Sporturilor finally hit the streets, its front page bore a picture of a flat-lining electrocardiogram and the headline: "Steaua lost after leading 2-0. WE ARE DEAD!" The inside pages of the paper made equally grim reading. "The Riverside nightmare," read the banner lead on page two. "Our Basel," read the third-page headline - a reference to FC Basel 1893's defeat in similar circumstances at Middlesbrough in the quarter-finals.

Shakespeare cancelled
With Steaua leading 1-0 from the first leg, the level of interest in the game had been enormous in Romania - the illustrious Comedy Theatre in Bucharest cancelled their production of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona for the night in honour of the match. As it was, there was enough drama among Bucharest's football supporters to make up for the Bard's absence. "Tragedy," wrote Sport Total. "For three halves, Steaua were in dreamland, but the last 45 minutes were a life lesson for all of us."

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