Lens able to weather Cluj stormTuesday, 9 August 2005
By Paul-Daniel Zaharia in Cluj
RC Lens will return to France with a priceless away goal after holding CFR Cluj to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of one of the three UEFA Intertoto Cup finals.
The home side showed plenty of attacking strength with Vasile Jula, Sorin Oncica and Adrian Anca all missing chances as Dorinel Munteanu's side went for a knockout blow in the early stages, but it was to be the visitors who opened the scoring after 24 minutes as Yoann Lachor converted a free-kick from 25 metres.
Cluj were not disheartened and continued to make the running, but they found the Lens defence - marshalled by the excellent Hilton - in impassive form. Their frustration was to become a little more intense as the referee turned down appeals for a penalty after Lens goalkeeper Charles Itandje appeared to have fouled striker Anca in the penalty area.
None the less, the home side got back on level terms in the second half, as Cristian Turcu executed another excellent free-kick on 57 minutes from a similar distance to Lachor's effort. The midfield player had come on to the pitch as a substitute two minutes earlier, but his arrival was not to prompt many more attacking chances for Cluj.
While the Romanian side continued to pressure their opponents, it was to be Lens who had the best chance of winning the game as Cluj goalkeeper Petru Turcas was forced to make a magnificent save to block a Daniel Cousin header. Lens now look to have a narrow advantage as they head into the home leg, but they will be without substitute Jérôme Leroy as the midfield player was dismissed eight minutes from time after appearing to strike an opponent.
Despite that late setback, Lens will be confident of victory at their Félix-Bollaert stadium when the return is played on 23 August. The winners of the tie will take one of three places up for grabs in the UEFA Cup first round.
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