Welcome back to part 6 of my attempt to bring European glory back to Bucharest. We are at the end of season 3 and all I can say is we have been on an incredible ride this year, I have been itching to share it but unfortunately time has not been on my side.
So filling in from the last post, we had just entered the winter break unbeaten and sitting comfortably at the top of the league. We continued the fantastic form and maintained our unbeaten run throughout the campaign. Finishing a massive 18 points above our closest rivals. 7 of our 8 draws came before the winter break so our form during the closing stages of the season I was incredibly proud of. winning all of our domestic games apart from 1 draw away to Viitorul. Once again we were clear favourites to win the title but I can honestly say the improvement and the fashion the boys went about winning it has really given me the delight and the enthusiasm to keep pushing with this career, driving to eventually win the champions League with Steaua and improving the quality and reputation of Romanian football.
To add to this success, we also won the Super Cup, League Cup and the Romanian Cup, claiming a famous quadruple. The previous two seasons we have won 3 out of 4, which has been a delight but now we have won the 4 I cannot be any more proud.
After claiming this domestic achievement I was branded with the success of entering the Romanian Hall of Fame as the most decorated manager in Romanian history. After being filled with honour and an overall sense of euphoria I realised that the Hall of Fame was missing something. Actually I can’t take that credit, @ actually pointed this out to me. Emerich Jenei the man in charge of Steaua the night they lifted the champions League, the whole purpose of this save, to emulate his success, was not in the Hall of Fame. Slightly strange but I will always see myself as second best until we are crowned European Champions.
As I mentioned in part 5 we had qualified from our tough Champions League group and mad it to the knock out stages of the competition. This was a massive improvement on last year as we couldn’t even manage a win, let alone qualify.
We were drawn against the reigning champions, Liverpool, thanks again FM for this you really are trying to make this difficult. Considering that sides like Sevilla and Kiev had also qualified, I felt like we deserved an easier opponent, but that was not to be.
We won the first leg at home 1-0 with a 44th minute goal from the sensation Paul-Jose M’Poku. He has turned out to be an absolute bargain, signing for us on a free transfer, and getting 16 goals and 18 assists in his first season. We arrived at Anfield with a slender lead, but a lead never the less. We were completely under the cosh as lost the game, but an early away goal from our super striker Henriquez in the 3rd minute meant we finished the game 2-1 but progressed to the quarter finals on away goals.
The quarter finals saw us peg up against Atletico Madrid, this was also a tough opponent but getting to this stage I knew it was always going to be tough. We lost the first leg in Madrid but we grabbed an away goal once again, this time from the penalty spot. Atletico won the game 2-1 but after the majic of the last round I knew the away goal could well go in our favour. The 2nd leg on our home turf can only be described as the best performance our side has ever put in since my time at the club. We destroyed Atletico 3-0 and I could have been much more as we pummelled Oblak’s goal. Against all odd we had progressed to the semi finals.
The final 4 of the Champions League, I never though we could reach this dizzy height only 3 years into this career, but here we are and our opposition in our way was PSG. Oil rich, mega money spending PSG. Once again we grabbed an away goal n the first leg in another 2-1 defeat, surely the away goals can’t go in our favour again can they? The 2nd leg we went for it and after the display against Atletico I knew the lads had it in them to over turn the one goal deficit. We took an early lead though Henriquez again on 14 minutes. Henriquez actually finished the season on 42 goals, a figure that a striker has never reached under my management, not since the Tsigalko days of CM01-02. M’Poku then sent the crowd into raptures with a goal on 56 minutes, meaning we were 3-2 up and PSG weren’t showing any real signs of getting back into it.That was until the 80 minute, when PSG decided to actually turn up and threw everything at me. The officials called for 2 minutes of added time and we had managed to withstand their barrage. This was until Bernardo Silva wriggled through and scored in the 93rd minute, 1 bloody minute over what the officials had called for. How unjust was that, meaning we would now have to go to extra time. Steaua heart were broken when Yoshinori Muto scored again for PSG in the 98th minute. We managed to score again to make it 4-4 on aggregate but it was too late, PSG had out done us on away goals, something that had helped us through the previous two rounds had now hindered us in the semi’s. Steaua’s hearts were well and truly shattered, but I was so incredibly proud of the lads for their efforts, it has only helped us and improved our reputation in Europe.
Now the players are on a well deserved break and I am looking to improve the squad during the summer break. I have my eye on a few young regens that I have noticed around Romania and other parts of Europe. I also have a couple of youngsters that I will be giving more first team opportunities to in the up coming season.
Once again I would like to thank you all for reading and supporting this blog. I am truly humbled by all the support.
Stay tuned for part 7 where I might think about branding a new set of kits for Steaua.
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