Bulgarian football champion Ludogorets Razgrad made it to the 1/8 finals of the Europa League after a dramatic match with Lazio at the Vasil Levski stadium in Sofia.
The match, played in front of a crowd of some 30 000 fans, ended in a 3:3 draw and gave the Bulgarian team a 4:3 aggregate from the two legs.
Ludogorets fell behind as early as the 40th second of the match following a goal by Keita from the left-wing. The rest of the first half passed under the domination of the away team, while the Bulgarians looked rather out of their usual form.
The second half was to offered real drama. Ludogorets began well, pressing their Italian opponent and taking more shots at their goal. However, against the run of play, it was Lazio who got the second goal, thus making the match almost out of reach for their opponent.
Nonetheless, the Bulgarian champions managed to fight back, backed by the huge home support and chants from the stands. Goals by Roman Bezjak in the 67th and Hristo Zlatinski in the 78th minute put both sides level.
There was another late twist in this drama. Just 4 minutes after the equalizing goal, the 30 000 home supporters got silenced once again, this time by Miroslav Klose’s goal, who had just come on as a substitute.
Once again, however, the players in green did not lose their fate and pushed for a goal that would take them to the next round. This happened in the 88th minute, thanks to another substitute – Brazilian Juninho Quixada. The striker scrambled a long cross and received helped from a miscalculation of Lazio goalkeeper Marchetti, who failed to catch the ball.
The draw puts Ludogorets in the next round, where they will meet another European giant, Spanish side Valencia.