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Romanian FM 2012 Story: Breakthrough Time?

Hello friends, I’m happy to report that I have a new episode of my Football Manager story ready to be enjoyed so welcome and feel free to read as my Viitorul Constanta launch another attempt to reach the knock-out stage of the Champions League. The season started well for us, nothing but wins on the domestic scene, but the Champions League was expected to be a lot more difficult than our routine clashes with the other Romanian teams.

As you might remember we were entered directly into the group stage this time, no preliminary rounds needed, but we were seeded third so we were drawn against Arsenal and PSG along with Sparta Prague in group G. The good thing is that none of those teams are considered as favourites for the trophy, so I guess it’s a better group than we had in the last seasons.

Let’s go straight into the action now, I will present the group stage, game by game.

Viitorul vs Sparta Prague (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hernan Arangio, Hector Fernandez – Rastislav Benko, Zezinho, Daniel Mazzoni

The first game is always tough and this one wasn’t different, even though we dominated the first half quite clearly. We were unable to create any clear cut chances though but fortunately we managed to break the deadlock five minutes before the interval thanks to a splendid free kick shot from 25 yards by Hernan Arangio. The first half could have ended all square as Sparta were denied by the post on the stroke of half time.

The game was quiet after the break but we were still in control and could have sealed the three points on 69 minutes when Mazzoni squandered a good chance. Then Sparta were denied by the woodwork again on a 81st minute free kick but they did the damage a few seconds later on a corner kick! To make it even worse, it was one of our former players who scored: defender Michael Vesely! One last assault saw Benko missing a good chance on the stroke of full time but it ended all square… We were sloppy on that day, we really should have won the game. The other group match produced a slight upset as PSG defeated Arsenal 2-0 in Paris!

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

Next up, Arsenal at Emirates Stadium

Arsenal vs Viitorul (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Sammy Mbarga, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hector Fernandez, Markus Winkler – Rastislav Benko, Manoel, Daniel Mazzoni

Arsenal‘s squad was quite impressive, and that’s because it was mostly based on English talent: Shawcross in defence, Wilshere in midfield and Wickham upfront, and that’s just to mention a few. There wasn’t much action in the opening minutes but some rather clumsy defending on our part gave Arsenal the chance to score on 18 minutes and they didn’t refuse the gift. Then the Gunners took control of the match and could have scored again on 37 minutes when a great shot came back off the post.

Nothing changed after the break, Wilshere scored for Arsenal on 57 minutes and it was all over. We could have pulled one back 10 minutes later but Benko wasted the chance and that was that. However, we played a pretty good second half but it just wasn’t good enough. The other game saw PSG winning 2-1 at Sparta so our position was quite difficult at that point.

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

It’s obvious that the next game, away at PSG, was crucial as a defeat would have pulled us right off the qualification race.

PSG vs Viitorul (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Xavier Dumont, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hernan Arangio, Hector Fernandez – Dramane Sow, Zezinho, Daniel Mazzoni

PSG‘s squad had some pretty big stars, like Pastore or Menez in midfield or the likes of Gameiro, Balotelli or Lukaku upfront. However, for this game their manager decided to leave Pastore, Balotelli and Lukaku on the bench. The first half was entirely dominated by my players, that was quite surprising but the shots on target score at half time was 5-0 in our favour! However, we didn’t create any big chances so the important score was 0-0.

PSG sent Lukaku in at half time but it was one of my lads who stepped into the spotlight: new signing Dramane Sow. He was denied by the crossbar but didn’t give up, he fought for the rebound and fired it in on 48 minutes! PSG were unable to show more than a few shots from distance after our goal, the game was still in our hands and we converted that into another goal on 57 minutes when midfielder Fernandez blasted home from inside the penalty area. We could have made it 3-0 on 73 minutes when PSG‘s goalie pulled off a huge save on a Zezinho corner kick header but that goal did come six minutes from time when substitute Rastislav Benko made an awesome counter attack run before squaring for Sow who tucked it home.

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

Arsenal thrashed Sparta 8-0 at Emirates Stadium in the other group match, so our position at the halfway point was third.

Before moving on to the remaining three group matches I received a shocking offer for one of my players: 15 million pounds for right back Hichem Belakhdar. The chairman accepted the offer on my behalf and I have to say that I would have accepted it myself, 15 million is a lot of money. Belakhdar will move to Rennes on January 1st, so he remained with us for the remaining matches.

Now let’s get back to the action, the next game was at home with PSG. A very important game, obviously.

Viitorul vs PSG (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Joaozinho, Hector Fernandez – Rastislav Benko, Zezinho, Daniel Mazzoni

This time they decided to send in Pastore but he didn’t last long as he left the field due to an injury after just two minutes. That was the most interesting event of the first half though, it was that boring.

Unfortunately our new keeper, Maciel, made his first gaffe for the club on 53 minutes when he fumbled an apparently easy cross and PSG took the lead against the run of play. We started pushing forward looking for the equaliser but luck didn’t seem to be on our side as Zlatinski smashed one against the crossbar around 20 minutes from time. We did get the equaliser a few seconds later, Mazzoni was brought down by a tackle inside the penalty area and substitute Markus Winkler converted from the spot. That gave us, and especially Winkler, some momentum, and we took the lead six minutes later when the same German substitute curled one home from the edge of the area! Get in! The three points were sealed on 83 minutes when Benko squeezed one home on a throw in, that was a superb and unexpected fightback! The other match saw Arsenal winning 1-0 at Sparta, so the Gunners were leading the group with 9 points, we had 7 while PSG had 6.

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

The qualification race was extremely tight so we had to win our Sparta in order to preserve our chances.

Sparta Prague vs Viitorul (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hernan Arangio, Hector Fernandez – Rastislav Benko, Zezinho, Daniel Mazzoni

We had some absences to deal with though as Manoel and Sammy Mbarga were injured while Joaozinho, Steven Khumalo and Dramane Sow were all away on international duty. Sparta had a flashing start and they squandered a good chance just 30 seconds into the match but then we gained control and Benko broke the deadlock on 13 minutes with a good placed shot from the edge of the area. That didn’t put off the Czech champions though and they came close again on 18 minutes when they threw away another good chance. Then Mazzoni blew one for us as he hit the post from just a couple of yards on 35 minutes but we made it 2-0 from the penalty spot four minutes later, Arangio was fouled and Zezinho converted.

Zezinho could have scored again on 57 minutes but the keeper denied him when one on one and then Mazzoni hit the woodwork once again on 70 minutes. Benko had the last chance of the game on 73 minutes but that didn’t really matter any more, we had the three points!

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

The great news is that Arsenal drew 1-1 with PSG at Emirates Stadium! That left them in 1st position in the group on 10 points, we had 10 as well and PSG had 7. But we defeated PSG both home and away so we were through to the next round! Was I happy? You bet! :)

We also had the chance to finish top of the group, all we needed was a home win against Arsenal! Easier said than done though…

Viitorul vs Arsenal (Champions League Group G)

Starting Line Up: Alberto Maciel – Hichem Belakhdar, Xavier Dumont, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hernan Arangio, Hector Fernandez – Rastislav Benko, Zezinho, Daniel Mazzoni

Arsenal enjoyed a very good start to the match and they could have scored twice in the opening 15 minutes: first they blew a counter attack chance on 8 minutes and then Maciel pulled off a huge save on Wickham on 14 minutes. We reacted on 16 minutes when Arangio found Benko inside the penalty area with a great pass but the striker smashed it low against the foot of the post. He did his job a lot better two minutes later though, he made an awesome counter attack run from inside the midfield circle and finished it with a sizzling shot, no keeper in the world could have saved that. Benko was really unstoppable and he created another chance for himself on 21 minutes but unfortunately he totally missed the finish that time. Arsenal started piling on the pressure but we defended well until the 44th minute when the Gunners threw away another good chance.

The second half was a lot more quiet thankfully, we kept possession very well and Arsenal were unable to threaten our lead. Moreover, Benko could have scored again during stoppage time…

Match highlights (goals and chances):click here to watch

First in the group! I wasn’t really expecting that, especially after the first two matches. And we left Arsenal out of the competition because PSG beat Sparta 4-1 in the last game!

We have finally made the breakthrough, we are in the knockout stage! We’ll meet Bayern Munich though, a very difficult opponent, but I guess only Shakhtar was easier in that draw. Bayern finished second in their group with 10 points, Roma were first. We have never met Bayern before so I don’t know exactly what to expect, but we’ll surely give them a run for their money.

Now let me describe what happened on the domestic scene…

Romanian Cup: way too easy, we’ll play in the semi finals again.

Liga 1: easier than ever, we really could have won all the first 18 games but we were held to an unlucky goalless draw at FC Bihor.

The title should be ours again, we have seven points on the second placed and no less than 20 points on the third!

As for the player stats, you can notice that all the lads in the first team squad got a decent number of starts this season, I tried to rotate the players as much as possible. A special note about Xavier Dumont, the young French defender I paid 7 million for, he is growing fast and at this point I can say that he will become a very good player. If he won’t suffer any bad injuries that is…

That’s about all for now folks, I’m extremely happy with the team’s performances in this first half of the season and I believe that we might achieve good things in spring as well with a bit of luck. We will lose Hichem Belakhdar on January 1st though so my priority will be to find a new right back and then see if there’s anything left for other transfers during the winter break. Thanks a lot for reading boys and girls, looking forward to your comments now!

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9 years ago

Indeed a great performance by the team, managing to finish first in the Champions League group stage is a huge thing, especially with a team like Arsenal there. Hopefully this season will be the one when we’ll finally see Constanta doing some damage in the Champions League, as we’ve all been expecting for quite some time now :) Good luck with that – it’s probably the only thing where luck is involved, you’ve got the domestic league clear :)

Martin F.M.J.S
9 years ago

Well done Johnny. I am so glad you have qualified for the next round, I wasn’t sure if you had messed up after the first two games especially with the draw against Sparta Prague but you turned it around and finishing top is brilliant. As for the League and Cup I think you are going to win them easy. :D Keep up the good work :D

9 years ago

Wow congratulations Johnny on finishing top of your group, this time Arsenal felt the same as you did last season, missing out on the knockout stages with 10 points

Looking great as usual in the domestic stage but Bayern will be very tough opposition, so good luck in your games against them and good luck too in your search for a new right back

9 years ago

Well done Johnny at guiding Viitorul to the top of your CL group though too bad that you meet Bayern in the next round – assuming that they ae a tough opponent. Domestically you have things neatly wrapped up already thanks to that brilliant run of form and great to see Dramane Sow doing so well. An AR of over 8 with 14 goals to boot!

9 years ago

After the first two group matches, things weren’t looking good at all, but the lads sure came out fighting after that. Nice to get the win over Arsenal in the last match, while I’m still marvelling at the win Q.P.R. got over them in real life at the weekend. :) Will be interesting to see how you fair against Bayern.

Domestically the other teams just can’t cope with you now, so the only real question there is whether you can remain unbeaten for the whole season.

Darren Smith
9 years ago

Fantastic stuff Johnny, to come back from those first two games and top the group was outstanding. You deserved it and the underdog effect will surely help vs Bayern. I often found that calmly telling the lads theres no pressure because we are the underdogs in matches like the one you have can work wonders. Fingers crossed for a real upset…ow and to get that sort of cash for your right back, just goes to show how far your squad has come.

9 years ago

Aw congrats on qualifying for the knockout stages Johnny! That’s a remarkable achievement! Domestically everything is wrapped up, it’s a shame the other Romanian clubs couldn’t keep up with your rapid progress :( Best of luck against Bayern!

Malhar Bhadbhade
9 years ago

wow johnny! congrats on finishing top of your group!! thats an amazing achievement given how tough your group was! bayern will be tough opposition indeed but i think your team has the quality now to beat them. domestic scene wont change i dont think for the rest of this story. we can almost take the title and the domestic cup for granted..sort of whats happening with my celtic save.its just europe left to conquer! good luck! :D cheers!!

Malhar Bhadbhade
9 years ago
Reply to  Johnny Karp

yeah, it does make the season more exciting when you dont win the league by 20 odd points..and the reputation of the league also improves and quality players then feel like coming. unfortunately, european success is the only way of attracting quality players…but im sure you’re enjoying the challenge :)

9 years ago

Nice comeback after your first 2 games, I do believe you have good chances against Bayern, all you need is just a little luck :)
Keep up the good work!

9 years ago

Congrats Johnny! Well done on reaching the knockout stages at last, the rise of Viitorul continues :) Bayern will be tough, but I doubt they’ll be much better than Arsenal, and you beat them, so you never know ;) Good luck!

Bence Répási
9 years ago

Hello Johnny!
Congratulations for that your team not just survived even won the group. It’s a very nice achievement. I hope you can overcome München. Good luck for the rest of the season

9 years ago

Ouch, poor Arsenal, out because they couldn’t take care of business at home against PSG. That was/is a great Champion’s League run though. After those first two group games, I was thinking we were in for the Europa league, but you guided them through to an outstanding first place qualification.

I’m looking forward to that draw against Bayern, and based on the sheer depth of your squad, it doesn’t look like losing Belahkdar will hurt too badly in the long run (and hey, it gives you an excuse to go shopping). Keep it up!

Tegar Triemanudigdo
9 years ago

Oh yeah! You’ve finally qualify to the first knockout round, but man, against Bayern Munich? That proof to be tough one. Good luck there and I really don’t have to worry about the domestic one because I can see your team dominating all over the area.

Dan King
9 years ago

Another great season so far on the domestic front, and absolutely fantastic in the Champions League! Must feel great to finally make that breakthrough.

9 years ago

What a breakthrough! Fantastic so far, you UEFA coefficient will improve so much. In the domestic league, you are doing great. Keep it up Johnny, and good luck v Bayern!

Ana Garcia
9 years ago

Am so pleased for you!! :)

Quite a hard draw in the knockout stage but just getting there is the main thing.

Domestic wise its business as usual! With the squad you have its just a formality going through the season!

As always the best of luck its great too see you finally make it, well done Johnny! :)

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