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Ten-man Steaua sink Maccabi Haifa to stay afloat

FC Steaua Bucureşti 4-2 Maccabi Haifa FC
A Cristian Tănase double helped the hosts secure their first victory in Group J and move to within a point of their opponents in second.

Leandro Tatu (right) celebrates after opening the scoring for Steaua
Leandro Tatu (right) celebrates after opening the scoring for Steaua ©Getty Images

Cristian Tănase scored twice for ten-man FC Steaua Bucureşti as they secured their first win in UEFA Europa League Group J against Maccabi Haifa FC to haul themselves back into contention for a top-two finish.

The hosts dominated proceedings in the first half and found themselves two goals to the good inside the opening half hour courtesy of Leandro Tatu and Florin Costea. Maccabi responded through Eyal Meshumar and Yaniv Katan, however, before Florin Costea saw red for Steaua after the break, but Tănase headed them back in front before sealing the win six minutes from time.

Determined to make amends for their 5-0 defeat in Israel last time out, Steaua were at their fluent best from the start and it did not take long for them to open the scoring, Tatu heading Pablo Brandán's corner past the helpless Nir Davidovitch from close range on 13 minutes. Costea then doubled the advantage just shy of the half-hour, curling a wonderful effort into the bottom right-hand corner after Raul Rusescu's neat lay-off.

Maccabi were handed a route back into the game when Steaua substitute Stefan Nikolić gave possession away on the halfway line and Meshumar seized the opportunity. The 28-year-old was allowed to travel as far as the edge of the penalty area, where he unleashed an unstoppable strike into the bottom left-hand corner. The visitors then drew level just four minutes later when Răzvan Stanca failed to keep out Katan's dipping volley.

The pace of the second half failed to match that of the first, with Brandán's long-range effort – which sailed narrowly over the crossbar – all either side could muster before the hour. The game then seemingly swung in favour of the visitors as Costea saw red for a challenge on Katan. However, undeterred by their numerical disadvantage, it was Steaua who forged ahead as Tănase headed in from close range after Martinović had climbed highest and hit the post from Brandán's free-kick.

The visitors were restricted to efforts from distance before a wonderful 30-metre strike from Tănase sealed Steaua's first win in the section. With that, Ilie Stan's side moved to within a point of their opponents in second and three adrift of leaders FC Schalke 04, whom they visit on 1 December when Maccabi travel to AEK Larnaca FC.