Grigor Pasha writes: As I reported in my previous post, at the end of the the 2021-22 regular programme we blew automatic promotion from Liga 2.
The last 8 matches of the programme went LLLWLLD. 4 points from a possible 21.
But that dismal run conceals a radical change.
Changing the playbook
Between the penultimate and final fixture we had a blank weekend. That meant, in effect, two weeks to prepare for the final game. That left enough time to introduce new tactics and provide team training sessions to prepare for them.
We’d become so hopeless at scoring — we had been losing only by narrow margins but were averaging just a goal every other game — that I decided to resort to set pieces.
I retained the 4-4-1-1 but:
- instructed the best runners – the wingers, the trequartista, and the complete forward — to run at the defence in order to win free kicks
- instructed the team to play for set pieces
- did a lot of team training on set pieces: corners, free kicks, set piece delivery, and penalties
- also did training on aerial defence (to improve heading), attacking from the wings, quickness, and attacking movement
- made changes to personalised training plans to improve heading, dribbling, and set-piece taking
The most dramatic change came in personnel.
My best set piece takers were two kids. Each of them was good at both free kicks and corners. And, praise be, one was left-footed and the other right-.
But introducing them was risky. Both were inexperienced. Neither was much good at anything other than taking set pieces.
Allow me to introduce you to Messrs Moise and Tudor:
My idea was to play the boys as a midfield two. We’d attack down the wings, leaving them as little to do as possible. They could stand in the centre circle, playing rock-paper-scissors or trading Pokemon cards or whatever the youth do these days, and only get involved when there was a set piece to be taken.
I think they have specialist kickers in American football, don’t they? Well, now we have them in Romanian soccer.
Our final match of the regular programme was at home to the lowly Minaur Baia Mare. A win would see us promoted, but we could only draw, 0-0.
That might not seem much of a vindication of the new tactic. But in fact we dominated the match, creating umpteen chances whilst stifling the opposition. That we didn’t win was primarily down to poor finishing. I felt I’d seen enough of promise to continue the experiment. Besides, I was out of ideas: I had no plan B.
The first leg of the play-offs was away at Arad, who were in danger of relegation. It proved an unexciting, evenly balanced, game.
But then in stoppage time the boy Tudor floated over an inch-perfect corner and Vidroiu, our young 6′ 4″ centre-back who’d spent all season winning headers and putting them over the bar, headed it perfectly into the top corner.
So we went into the second leg with a single-goal advantage. In the first half of the second leg we were, frankly, overwhelmed. The only surprise about their goal, in the 39th minute, was that it was so long coming.
In the half-time break I tried not to let my despondency show. I ensured that the team were instructed to look for counter-attacks. I couldn’t do much else.
After the break, Arad continued to look the better team, though without managing to add to their score.
And then it happened
Then, in the 89th minute, Erdei crossed the ball from our right flank over to the left, where Mihai Isfan, from just in side the area, whacked in a volley.
So we did it the hard way, but we were up. I’m told there was dancing in the streets of Constanta that night.
The Isfan goal was wonderful — both skilful and dramatic — but Vidroiu’s goal in the first- leg that I’ve watched on video most often.
That corner from the boy Tudor was everything we could have wanted.
Image credit: Dancing in the street: Miénk a város Kaposvár 2018-09-07 by Ken Owen, generously made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence.