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Romanian FM 2012 Story: Closer Than Ever

Hello boys and girls, I’m happy to bring you a new episode of my Football Manager 2012 story! As you know my Viitorul Constanta managed to reach the group stage of the Champions League once again and, after our Europa League heroics last season, I was hoping to finally push through to the knock-out rounds of the best club competition in Europe. Our group wasn’t easy at all though since we had to face A.C. Milan, the current trophy holders, plus Stuttgart and PSV Eindhoven.

I have to agree with the bookmakers for once, winning the Champions League is way beyond our current abilities. But who knows…

AC Milan vs Viitorul (Champions League Group F)

Starting Line Up: Hernan Prestia – Ali Amara, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Danut Gongolea – Yasen Zlatinski, Hector Fernandez, Markus Winkler – Zezinho, Manoel, Daniel Mazzoni

Here we go, straight to the action. You might remember that Milan defeated us in the UEFA Super Cup earlier in the season but this time they decided to field a slightly different eleven, with Borja upfront instead of Pato and with a fantastic regen as an attacking midfielder: Luigi Castellazzi (click the name to view his profile). The first quarter hour was fairly quiet, I was happy with that, but Milan struck on 16 minutes courtesy of an unexpected blunder at the back by Belencoso. The Italian giants took control of the game after that goal, their domination was quite clear and they bagged another goal through their wonderkid on 27 minutes. The same youngster could have wrapped up a great first half with another goal but he was denied by the crossbar during stoppage time.

The second half was almost identical to the first, Milan kept the game under control and we never looked like doing any damage. We could have scored a consolation goal on the stroke of full time but Manoel hit the crossbar and that was that, a clear defeat. The other group match was a thriller, Stuttgart defeated PSV 4-3.

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

Viitorul vs Stuttgart (Champions League Group F)

Starting Line Up: Hernan Prestia – Hichem Belakhdar, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Danut Gongolea – Christian Kaufmann, Joaozinho, Markus Winkler – Rastislav Benko, Manoel, Daniel Mazzoni

Our first game at home was against Stuttgart, a solid team overall but with no big stars in their ranks. However, the Germans carved out a good chance after just four minutes but our goalie pulled off a good save to keep the score level. Stuttgart hit the post two minutes later and it seemed that we were having a much more difficult game than expected as they created yet another chance on 7 minutes. We were playing quite badly but fortunately our only German player, Markus Winkler, did the damage on 27 minutes with a perfectly placed shot from the edge of the penalty area. We started to gain control over the game at that point and doubled the advantage on 39 minutes when Benko headed home on a pinpoint cross from Gongolea. The first half could have ended with another goal but Benko was stopped by the keeper on 44 minutes.

The second half was conveniently quiet. Even better, we managed to get another goal in on a free kick, Dicu got to the cross first and volleyed home. The other match in our group saw Milan winning 3-1 at PSV.

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

PSV vs Viitorul (Champions League Group F)

Starting Line Up: Hernan Prestia – Ali Amara, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Danut Gongolea – Hector Fernandez, Hernan Arangio, Yasen Zlatinski – Rastislav Benko, Steven Khumalo, Daniel Mazzoni

PSV seemed the weakest team in our group so this was a crucial match, we had to win it in order to preserve our chances of making it to the next round. And we could have gotten off to a flying start as Benko had a huge chance just 35 seconds into the match but he blew it. We were playing well though and the deserved goal did come eventually, midfielder Zlatinski bagged one from 20 yards with a superb shot six minutes before the half hour mark. The game remained under our control after the goal and we managed to secure the three points on 77 minutes when Benko struck on a counter attack.

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

I expected Milan to get a good result at Stuttgart and simplify the situation at the top of the group but I was surprised to find out that Stuttgart defeated the Italian champions 2-0! That meant that we were first in the group halfway through but the situation was quite complicated with three teams tied on 6 points.

Viitorul vs PSV (Champions League Group F)

Starting Line Up: Hernan Prestia – Ali Amara, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Danut Gongolea – Hernan Arangio, Yasen Zlatinski, Markus Winkler – Rastislav Benko, Steven Khumalo, Daniel Mazzoni

You can notice that I chose to field young Khumalo upfront again, that is because he had a few good performances in the domestic matches and I wanted to test him on the bigger stage. The choice proved risky on 36 minutes when he squandered a pretty good chance but he made up for that just before the break when he headed home on a corner kick with the ball going in off the underside of the bar. PSV could have restored parity during stoppage time but fortunately they squandered their first good chance of the game.

The second half saw Khumalo still leading the team and he nearly scored a fabulous goal from way out but his effort on 51 minutes bounced off the crossbar. Our domination was quite clear and we finally scored again 20 minutes from time when Mazzoni wrapped up a good team move. Substitute Manoel came close on 73 minutes but two goals were more than enough to secure the three points. Stuttgart managed to hold Milan to a goalless draw in the other group match, so we needed just one more win to qualify!

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

Viitorul vs AC Milan (Champions League Group F)

Starting Line Up: Hernan Prestia – Ali Amara, Juan Belencoso, Georgica Dicu, Sebastien Verdier – Yasen Zlatinski, Hector Fernandez, Markus Winkler – Zezinho, Rastislav Benko, Daniel Mazzoni

Could that win be against Milan? I was certainly hoping so… The first half didn’t show that we were capable of winning it though, we dominated play, restricted the visiting side to long shots, but we failed to create chances for ourselves.

The second half continued in a similar fashion but Milan nearly punished us on a counter attack on 67 minutes. We finally created a big chance two minutes later, a fine move freed Mazzoni inside the penalty area but his effort was denied by the goalkeeper. And then, just four minutes later, Milan scored a sensational goal… Fortunately we bounced back after just six minutes as substitute Hernan Arangio played a great pass for Zezinho who fired in at the near post. The last 10 minutes were a bit of an onslaught as Milan were firing from all over the place. They hit the woodwork twice, in the 81st and 88th minute, and we survived to clinch a point. Stuttgart won 1-0 at PSV though so that point didn’t do us much good. We were tied with Stuttgart on 10 points, Milan were third with 8 points but their total was almost certainly going to be 11 points as they were meeting PSV in the last group match.

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

Stuttgart vs Viitorul (Champions League Group F)

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

So, we needed to leave Stuttgart unbeaten in order to qualify. It looked possible for a few minutes but not for long… Stuttgart scored a quickfire double around the quarter hour mark, then hit the crossbar on 26 minutes and then bagged one from 30 yards two minutes before the break. Milan were leading PSV 2-1 at half time so it all seemed over.

I switched to the attacking version of my tactic at half time, we had nothing left to lose, but that didn’t change anything. Stuttgart even had another chance to score on 56 minutes… Milan thrashed PSV 5-1 so it was officially over. We came close, we grabbed 10 points this time, more than ever and closer than ever but not enough… We’re going into the Europa League again and we have to get some wins there to keep our coefficient up. We’re going to meet Shakhtar in the first round and then either Dinamo Moscow or… Marseille! Remember Marseille?

Match Highlights (goals and chances)click here to watch

The first half of the domestic season was better than ever, we went through it unbeaten and recorded only two draws.

However, CFR Cluj were just two points behind us after 18 games! So I guess the title race is not over yet but if you think that we defeated CFR Cluj 5-0 in the direct encounter you might think otherwise…

Rastislav Benko was my main man again, he bagged 14 goals and added 7 assists, but the competition is fierce upfront this season as young Steven Khumalo is establishing himself as a solid candidate for a place in the first eleven. I’m satisfied with all the players so far, maybe just Juan Belencoso is playing a bit below his standards.

In other (good) news, our stadium expansion was completed! We have just over 10,000 seats now plus top notch training and youth facilities.

The finances are still looking good so I guess I will be able to do something on the transfer market during the winter break. I think I’ll look for a classy centre back to have more competition for a first team place in that department.

That was it folks, a bit disappointing to be honest especially since we only needed 3 points out of the last two games to qualify. However, this is another small step forward as we recorded 10 points compared to our previous best of 8 points. At this rate I guess next season we’ll finally do it… Or not? Let me know what you think.

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Adam
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Adam

That’s gutting mate, still, it’s all movement in the right direction! No one would have expected a Romanian club to be threatening Milan at the start! You’ll get there eventually!

Kevin
Member

Jeez that’s rough Johnny. After beating Stuttgart at home and PSV away I was convinced you would go through in what was a really tight group. Still, progress I guess?
Domestically you have only one team to keep an eye on with Rapid and Steau way out of the picture :) As for your facilities you have improved them leaps and bounds over several seasons and look great for developing players.

Sears
Guest

Awh, after reading that you just needed 3 points to qualify I thought that qualification would definitely be achieved … However, despite not reaching the knockout stages, I think you should be immensely prod of what you achieved; you did fantastically well in what was a tough CL group. As usual the league form has been excellent, so best of luck locating a new CB and I hope you’ll be able to retain you’re Europa League title again!

Sears
Guest

* immensely proud

Darren Smith
Admin

Well let me start by saying how are Cluj hanging in there!? Crazy to win all but two games and still not open up a reasonable gap…not that that will stop you. :) As for Europe you were very unlucky and I think that provided you get a similar draw next season the experience will come good and see you on the better end of the luck scale. Great stuff though.

Laxeyman
Guest
Laxeyman

Ahhhh so close Johnny! That must be incredibly frustrating, but you’re making progress every year, so hopefully next year can finally be the year! Going great in the league again, I’m sure you’ll win it :) I reckon you have a decent chance of success in the Europa League, and hopefully the draw will be kind :) Good luck!

Martin - F.M.J.S
Guest

Well done Johnny, It was a bit unlucky with CL, I thought you were through at one point but I hope you can win the Europa League again. As for the League it a brilliant start but I am amazed how CFR Cluj have stayed in touching distance but Keep up the good work and hopefully CFR Cluj will slip up soon. :)

saltwater
Guest
saltwater

Even in real life I don’t think a side has ever gone out on 10 points since the revamp in Champions League format, so extreamly unlucky in that respect. Steven Khumalo seems to be coming along nicely, and credit for playing him in the majority of the big games. The CFR Cluj manager should be knighted by the Queen (or whoever they have in Romania) for keeping that team in the title race, and finally I am looking forward to Marsielle part 2.
One last thing. In all your years on FM/Championship manager, have you ever been relegated (I think I know the answer)? If not, what’s the closest you have come?

Callum
Guest
Callum

So unlucky not to qualify from that group! Next season you might get through and hopefully get an easier group! quick question, how do you get your player screen to show up with the height etc?

TheZiggy
Guest

Really thought you were going to manage to qualify for the Champions League knockout rounds. Getting so close is really tough. Hopefully you’ll on a retain the Europa League, which would at least go some way to helping you over the disappointment. The league form is again imperious, but CFR Cluj are definitely keeping up quite well. While that’s a pain, it does however suggest the quality of the league may be improving, which has to be a good thing in the long run.

Malhar Bhadbhade
Guest

hey johnny,
hard luck on not qualifying this time. but as you said, you did come very close, and to be honest, your group was pretty tricky too. i think the crucial match in my opinion is the one away from home against the second strongest team in the group, in this case stuttgart. if you had managed to avoid defeat there, you would have qualified. but hey, this gives you another opportunity to win the europa league, and it is very possible as you proved last season. never had any worries about your domestic campaign, i just cant see you not winning the league. whats happening with the domestic cup? anyway, good luck for the rest of the season and keep up the good work! cheers! :D

Tegar Triemanudigdo
Guest

Ahh…too bad that you didn’t qualify to knockout stage, but nevertheless it was good effort there. And you still have Europa league on your schedule, so things might not be bad after all.

In any case, I’ll look forward to your next journey.

CsAtlantis
Guest

Johnny you seem to have emulated what Man City have done in the Champions League this season, they also went out on 10 points, CFR Cluj are giving it a real and are only 2 points behind despite the thrashing you handed out to them

You have some great facilities, hopefully you can upgrade your youth recruitment to be more even with your training.youth facilities (to produce the next Hagi hopefully :D)

Good luck with the rest of the season, at least you get a chance to defend your Europa League trophy?

John Martin
Guest
John Martin

Great stoff Johnny. Just a question do u know when Dan and stormsons next posts will be’

Bence Répási
Guest

Your boys are excellent at home as usual, but you can be also very proud of your team because of CL. I think next year we going to see Viitorul in the best 16 or maybe in the Quarter-final.Good luck for that!
PS.:
I’m very curious how hungarian teams perform in your save, so can you say anything about they?

Mark
Guest
Mark

Hey Johnny, that’s an awful way to go out of the champions league and i’m terribly sorry but hopefully you can defend your Europa League crown. Good Luck, Mark :D

Stromson
Member

Wow, that was intense. I was really pulling for you to crack those knockout rounds, but it was a great ride none the less. I’ll be extremely amused if you manage to draw OM again. With any luck, you won’t need the 8 goal miracle win to get through them. ;) Great stuff as usual my friend, keep it up!

P.S. – Wow, the league is tight at the halfway mark!

David Faithfull
Guest
David Faithfull

Johnny very unlucky to see you be knocked out from the group stages again :( and seeing as you managed to get 10 points out of the group you must be downhearted. nevertheless you progressing each year within the champions league and hopefully next season you can make it to the knockout stages!!

vaibhavc
Guest
vaibhavc

So close! You must have been devastating for you when you got knocked out. You had some great victories against the other sides in the CL, hopefully you can win the Europa League again!

Ana Garcia
Member

Oh no, your luck is worse than mine!! :)

I cant believe you never made the last 16 everything was looking so good! I guess it was just bad luck and you did compete with the bigger sides so there is still some progress and you get to try and defend your Europa league title! :)

League is so close so the pressure seems to be on your team at the moment so I wish you the best of luck!!

Calin
Guest

Oh, so unlucky Johnny! I was 100% sure that you’ll make it out of the group stages this season, but it just wasn’t meant to be. I am sure that next season will be the one and I also think that winning another Europa League trophy is not a bad thing either ;)

Good luck in the second half of the season!

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