BUCHAREST, Mar 30 (Reuters) Veteran striker Viorel Moldovan earned Rapid Bucharest a 1-1 draw at home to city rivals Steaua Bucharest in their UEFA Cup quarter-final, first leg tie today.
Former European champions Steaua had stunned Rapid at their Lia Manoliu stadium when winger Banel Nicolita scored after just four minutes in the first all-Romania match in European club competition.
Nicolita converted Daniel Oprita's low cross, the first goal Rapid have conceded in eight home European matches this season.
Rapid almost got a quick equaliser but Daniel Niculae's header hit the post seven minutes later.
Moldovan, who missed a good opportunity to score in the first half, made no mistake four minutes after halftime when he capitalised on some poor Steaua defending.
Rapid forward pushed the ball into the Steaua's net after two consecutive, foolish mistakes from defender Sorin Ghionea and goalie Carlos Fernandes.
''Steaua dominated the first half but we were strong enough to come back (into the game),'' Rapid skipper Vasile Maftei said.
''We will go to Lia Manoliu (the arena which will host the second tie) to score and win. We are able to do it. You will see a different display from Rapid next week.'' Steaua needed only four minutes to score their precious away goal after a fast, classic counter-attack led by Daniel Oprita on the right side.
''My goal might be decisive for the qualification (into the semifinal),'' Nicolita said.
Nicolita, who scored twice in previous stunning 3-0 away win against Real Betis, was left alone in the area by sleeping Rapid defenders and netted a right low cross from Daniel Oprita.
''Such an early goal is always important in such a balanced game,'' he added.
In the first half, visiting coach Cosmin Olaroiu surprised his opponent Razvan Lucescu fielding speedy Andrei Cristea, usually only a substitute, and placing right wing Nicolita on the left side of his attacking line.
But Lucescu found the right solution during the break when he replaced his left midfielder Ionut Stancu with more offensive teammate Nicolae Grigore.
''After the break there was a different Rapid which played without the fear it had in the first half,'' Lucescu said.
''We lost our head for few minutes into the second time and Rapid punished us,'' Olaroiu said. ''The qualification is to be played, with both teams having chances.'' In the second half, Rapid closed better their defensive sides while Steaua seemed satisfied with the draw, replacing offensive players with defensive ones.
REUTERS SK RN-235