BUCHAREST, Aug 3 – CFR Cluj clinched their third successive Romanian title on Monday after coming from behind to beat Universitatea Craiova 3-1 in a playoff which decided the country’s representative in the Champions League.
The Romanian federation (FRF) said a couple of hours before kick off that the match winner would earn a place in next season’s Champions League qualifying rounds, adding that extra-time periods and penalties could follow the regular 90 minutes in case of a draw.
The FRF took the unprecedented decision to meet UEFA’s deadline for national associations to enter teams for next season´s European competitions. UEFA set Aug. 3 as deadline.
Cluj won their sixth title since 2008 after collecting 49 points. Universitatea, who have one game remaining, are second on 44.
Craiova midfielder Dan Nistor opened the scoring with a thunderous shot from outside the area after 10 minutes and Cluj’s Brazilian midfielder Paulo Vinicius headed from a corner to level the score nine minutes before the break.
Unmarked defender Kevin Boli headed in from seven metres to put the visitors in front in the 56th minute and Ciprian Deac converted a penalty in the 77th minute to make it 3-1.
Thousands of Universitatea fans gathered outside Ion Oblemenco Stadium despite not being allowed to watch the game on a huge screen due to the restrictive COVID-19 measures in the Black Sea state.
Cluj manager Dan Petrescu, a former Chelsea and Southampton defender, missed his team’s victory as he is still under quarantine following positive COVID-19 test.
Cluj had 26 cases of coronavirus confirmed two weeks ago but 23 of them turned out to be “false-positive” last week, allowing them to win three games in less than a week and win the title.
Craiova, FCSB, formerly known as Steaua Bucharest, and Botosani will play in next season’s Europa League. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Pritha Sarkar)