Caley Thistle defender David Raven reckons the soaring Romanian heat during last night’s 0-0 draw against Astra made the game his toughest physical challenge in football.
Inverness were knocked out of the Europa League after their 1-0 aggregate defeat by Astra, with Constantin Budescu’s free kick in last week’s first leg at Caledonian Stadium proving decisive.
Caley Jags put up a brave showing against Astra at Marin Anastasovici Stadium last night but could not find a way through against the Romanian Liga I team.
With temperatures of roughly 30C in Giurgiu, Raven felt the match was as demanding on his fitness as any he has played.
Raven said: “It was hard. Physically, I think that was the hardest game I’ve played in. I got to about 60 minutes and I was gone.
“It’s still pre-season for us and we’re still getting up to scratch. It was really tough, the heat took it out of me. We are a little bit frustrated because we have been undone by a free kick and I felt we more than matched them.
“We chased the game a bit in the second half and they had a few chances themselves but we have to be ruthless and finish our chances off. We can hold our heads high, we put in a good shift.”
The defeat marks an end to Inverness’ first European campaign in the Highlanders’ 21-year history but Raven was full of praise for the 500 supporters who travelled to support the team in Romania.
The 30-year-old added: “The lads really appreciate the support we got, it was amazing and gave us an extra lift.
“I have to say well done to everyone who came over because it’s such a sacrifice, but that’s what it means to people. It’s hard-earned cash and they have come over and spent it. They’ve probably had a great time and I’m just gutted we couldn’t do it for them.
Astra manager Marius Sumudica was content with his side’s progress to the third qualifying round, given his side’s early start to the season.
Sumudica said: “For us, there was a bit of tiredness. But we had another week of training after the last Inverness game which was visible. Physically, it’s been very challenging for us.
“I congratulate Inverness, they are a great team and I am happy for them. But I am happy we won and we can progress.”