June 13, 2020 / 8:55 PM / a month ago

Romanian league re-starts after three-month coronavirus stoppage

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - The Romanian league resumed on Saturday with two playoff matches among the bottom eight teams played behind closed doors, ending a three-month break due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Voluntari moved off the bottom of the 14-team table with a 3-0 win over newcomers Academica Clinceni thanks to North Macedonian striker Marko Simonovski’s two goals and an own goal from Academica’s Portuguese goalkeeper Miguel Santos.

Sepsi - the first team from the ethnic Hungarian-majority county Covasna to win promotion to the top flight, in 2017 - drew 1-1 at home with Hermannstadt.

Sepsi took the lead after 25 minutes when midfielder Istvan Fulop hit the target from close range. The visitors equalised through Portuguese striker Yazalde less than 30 seconds after the break.

In the playoffs, the bottom eight sides play to decide who gets relegated, while the top six play to decide the championship and who qualifies for Europa League action next season.

Third-placed Universitatea Craiova had been due to host fifth-placed FC Botosani as part of the top-six playoffs on Friday, but the match was cancelled after the visitors’ doctor tested positive for COVID-19.

A tie between Dinamo Bucharest and Chindia Targoviste scheduled for Saturday was also postponed after a Dinamo official contracted the virus.

Leaders CFR Cluj, who have won the title in the last two seasons, are at home on Sunday in a table-topping clash with second-placed FCSB, formerly known as Steaua Bucharest.

Romania’s football federation (FRF) suspended all soccer in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has so far killed 1,394 people in the Black Sea state, with nearly 21,700 confirmed infections.

FRF President Razvan Burleanu told local media he hoped the Romanian Cup final next month could be played with fans.

“We are living through the biggest crisis football has ever gone through,” Burleanu said.

“I think we will go through this in a year, but we still expect to have spectators at the Cup final on July 22. Everything depends on how the pandemic develops.”

Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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