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Stancu at the double as Steaua beat Utrecht

FC Steaua Bucureşti 3-1 FC Utrecht
The predatory Bogdan Stancu scored twice in as many second-half minutes as Steaua leapt from the foot of Group K to second.

Novak Martinović slides in on Utrecht goalscorer Dries Mertens
Novak Martinović slides in on Utrecht goalscorer Dries Mertens ©Getty Images

FC Steaua Bucureşti rocketed from last to second place in Group K with a 3-1 win against FC Utrecht.

Bogdan Stancu struck twice in two second-half minutes to tilt a close tie in the home side's favour and leave Utrecht without a win in four UEFA Europa League ties. Yet with Liverpool FC beating SSC Napoli 3-1, Ton du Chatinier's side still have plenty to fight for in a tight section.

The stage was set for a jittery fixture within 20 seconds as Romeo Surdu's punt had Michel Vorm scrambling at full stretch to save. Dries Mertens later fired a powerful shot at Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tătăruşanu before Marius Lăcătuş's side edged ahead.

Centre-back Florin Gardoş rose highest in a goalmouth scrum to nod towards goal, and while Vorm got firmly behind the ball he inadvertently carried it over his line.

If that seemed harsh on the Utrecht players, amends was soon made, as Martens delivered a free-kick which Tătăruşanu could only watch as it sailed into the top right corner of his net.

Stancu stole the show early in the second half. Two attempted clearances only conspired to send the ball deeper into the Utrecht danger area, and Cristian Tănase nicked the ball across the path of the panicking Vorm for the striker to scuff and scramble home.

The 23-year-old's nose for goal had him surging through again a minute later. This time, a quick sortie up the right enabled Bănel Nicoliţă to nudge into Stancu's path, the striker's outstretched boot prodding the ball into the unguarded Utrecht net.

The visitors probed forward gamely thereafter but Steaua held reasonably firm, and might have extended their lead had János Székely elected to pass rather than go for glory following a late break.