As I grew up supporting Rapid, I was accustomed with the teams’ “almost performance”. Even if the club played very well since 2000 in the continental competitions the players did not managed to break through the superior stages.
In 2000, on Giulești Stadium, FC Liverpool was arriving. They won 1-0 and despite Rapids’ efforts on second leg the Kop had make it forward and eventually won the trophy. A year after Rapid held a brilliant 0-0 on “Parc des Princes” and was looking like were about to qualify. On “Valentin Stănescu” Stadium the two teams were level, at the end of 90 minutes. In extra time, Aloisio scored for the French squad and put them through. As if it wasn’t enough, the floodlight stopped working and Rapid was punished by UEFA with a 3-0 loss. Without scoring even a goal in four matches, the team from Bucharest left a strong impression.
After being eliminated by Vitesse Arhem in 2002, Rapid would play the next year in the UEFA Champions’ League second preliminary round, against Anderlecht Bruxelles. On home pitch, the Romanians would manage to draw, 0-0. Their mission was now very tough. It was unlikely that Rapid can obtain a good result on “Constant Vanden Stock”. But it will be a game that neither fans, of the two clubs, will ever forget. A careful start wasn’t enough, so Rapid took their chances in the offensive. As half time approached, Robert Ilyeș and Florin Bratu scored for an incredible lead for the Romania’s champions. 2-0 and it seemed like Rapid would play in the next round against Wisla Crakow. But they wouldn’t. As the second half was about to start I was feeling that something isn’t right. My worse fear became real: Anderlecht was attacking with all the lines and Rapid didn’t look like having to many chances. In only two minutes (51 and 52), Jestrovic and Zetterberg scored the goals that put the champions from Belgium level. Still, Mircea Rednics’ team was in advantage. But it wouldn’t last long as Anderlecht was attacking continous. Finally, in the 74th minute the South Korean international, Seol Ki-Hyeon scored the qualifying goal. Even though Rapid struggled after that for an equalizer, they would not manage to achieve such a result. A painful loss for a brave team. Unfortunately their bravery lasted only in the first half of the game and that wasn’t enough.
Rapid missed to qualify in Europe for the next year, but in 2005-2006 they made their fans happy by their stunning results in the UEFA Cup. That was their revenge after several unlucky continental games. You can find also the story of this season on this blog.