A new era of Romanian football got off to a somewhat luke-warm start on Wednesday as Victor Piturca’s much-changed side limped to a 3-0 win against Armenia.
Romania’s 2-0 defeat to Group One leaders Holland at the weekend all but ended their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup in 2006, leaving them six points behind their opponents and five adrift of second-placed Czech Republic.
Piturca admitted after the game that his side seem destined to miss out and called instead for a new era to begin against Armenia with qualification to the 2008 European Championships as the ultimate goal.
Accordingly, only five of the side that lined up against the Dutch were included in the starting eleven at the Gheorghe Hagi Stadium, but fans looking for a revitalised performance were to leave frustrated.
Ovidiu Petre opened the scoring midway through the first half before goals either side of the interval from Gheorghe Bucur ultimately sealed things.
But the hosts were far from compelling in their performance, never looking to be in complete control.
Armenia meanwhile, despite their defeat, can take satisfaction in providing a distinctly more encouraging performance than the dire display they offered in losing 2-1 to FYR Macedonia at the weekend.
The visitors’ defensive game-plan was clear from the outset, with Edgar Manchurian providing their only real presence up front.
Unsurprisingly therefore, Romania were soon dominating possession and went ahead after 29 minutes.
Gigel Coman was the architect, creating space down the left flank before delivering a superb cross that Petre headed home from six yards.
Eleven minutes later and the game was effectively over.
Mihaita Plesan lofted a long ball to Dorinel Munteanu who in turn nodded into the path of Bucur.
And the striker, in the team in place of Adrian Mutu, made no mistake, firing home past Roman Berezovsky.
Bucur grabbed his second late on in a poor second period to add a touch of gloss to the scoreline but Piturca can take heart – it was the first time in 18 months that Romania have kept a clean sheet.