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Romania set up Russia deciders

Moldova 0-1 Romania
Liviu Ganea's penalty means the visitors are level with Group 1 leaders Russia ahead of the teams' crucial double-header next month.

Moldova forward Eugen Sidorenco (right) evades Valerică Găman
Moldova forward Eugen Sidorenco (right) evades Valerică Găman ©Boris Kharchenko

Romania are level on points with Russia at the top of UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 1 with two matches to play after Liviu Ganea struck the only goal against Moldova.

Ganea scored from the penalty spot midway through the first half in Chisinau following a foul by Maxim Potirniche on Gabriel Torje. The victory draws Emil Sandoi's team level with Russia − who defeated Latvia 2-1 earlier in the day − on 21 points, setting up a thrilling finale to the section early next month when the sides meet twice in four days to decide who qualifies for the play-offs as group winners.

Ganea's spot-kick on 23 minutes was the first opportunity of a half which Romania largely controlled. For all their dominance, though, they could have been on level terms nine minutes later when Moldova captain Artur Ionita headed Alexandru Grosu's free-kick against the crossbar. Romania should have doubled their lead before the break but Mihai Costea, having evaded the offside trap, shot wide with only Maxim Copelciuc to beat.

The hosts emerged for the second half with renewed purpose but it was not until a minute from time that they threatened again through substitute Dmitrii Vornișel, who was unable to get a shot away when well placed in the area. Romania coach Emil Sandoi said: "Moldova are a strong opponent and matches against them are never easy. It is very good to have won to keep up the fight for first place in the group."