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Niculae breathes life into Dinamo

FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti 2-1 SK Sturm Graz
Marius Niculae grabbed a winner after Dinamo had been reduced to ten men to keep their faint hopes of qualification alive.

Experienced striker Marius Niculae kept FC Dinamo 1948 Bucureşti in with a slim hope of qualifying for the round of 32 as his clever header allowed the Romanian side to complete a double over SK Sturm Graz even though they were reduced to ten men just before half-time.

Superb header
In a frantic first five minutes, Sturm missed a penalty and then took the lead with a superb header from Mario Sonnleitner. They were pegged back when Niculae's shot went in off goalkeeper Christian Gratzei but must have felt they were favourites when Laurenţiu Rus, booked when he gave away the penalty, was dismissed for a foul. Niculae then nodded in from a narrow angle early in the second half, so Dinamo can now go through if they win away to Panathinaikos FC on Matchday 6.

Penalty save
The game burst into life after only three minutes when Dinamo could only half clear a corner, and Rus stuck out his hand to concede a penalty and earn a yellow card. He was spared further punishment when Emilian Dolha guessed the right way to save Samir Muratović's penalty. The reprieve for Dinamo was short-lived as Sturm took the lead from the resulting corner. This time Dolha was given no chance as Haris Bukva's superb cross was met by an even better header into the top corner from Sonnleitner.

Sending off
A dominant Dinamo levelled on 41 minutes when Andrei Cristea's half-volley forced a fine save from Gratzei, but when Niculae hooked the ball back in from a narrow angle, it bounced off the post and into the net off Gratzei. Rus immediately deflated Dinamo by inviting a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle. It was a tough task for Dinamo but 12 minutes after the break, Niculae stole in unmarked at the far post to direct Gabriel Boştină's free-kick past Gratzei from a narrow angle, and the ten men held out with ease.