Steaua Bucharest were head and shoulders above Chelsea on Tuesday.
Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Chelsea: Europa League Round of 16, first leg
07 March 2013
Arena Nationala, Bucharest
Referee: Sergei Karasev (Russia)
Steaua Bucharest XI: Tatarusanu; Rapa, Zukala, Chiriches, Latovlevici; Pintilii, Bourceanu, Tanase; Popa, Rusescu, Chipiciu
Chelsea XI: Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Bertrand; Mikel, Lampard; Benayoun, Oscar, Hazard; Torres
Chelsea’s performance in Thursday’s Europa League Round of 16 first leg match at Steaua Bucharest was their poorest in some time and will no doubt serve to heap even more pressure on embattled manager Rafael Benitez.
But as appalling as the Blues were in the Romanian capital, the night truly belonged to Steaua, who packed a record 55,000 fans into Arena Nationala and treated them to a historic result.
The only goal of the match came with about 10 minutes to play in the opening half when a delightfully floated ball from Steaua left-back Iasmin Latovlevici looked as though it was going to find Raul Rusescu before the striker was pulled back by Ryan Bertrand.
Russian referee Sergei Karasev pointed to the spot, and Rusescu confidently converted his spot-kick past Petr Cech.
Chelsea came out of the tunnel with a bit more gustso to start the second period, but their play deteriorated to its previous level by the hour-mark, and if either side looked the more likely to score over the final half-hour it was surely Steaua.
The Romanian league leaders will now take a 1-0 aggregate advantage to Stamford Bridge for next Thursday’s second leg. Chelsea, in the meantime, have the little matter of Saturday’s FA Cup quarterfinal against Manchester United to think about.