Ludogorets come back from dead to down Lazio
Substitute Juninho Quixad? held his nerve late on as PFC Ludogorets Razgrad fought back from two goals down to draw 3-3 with SS Lazio and progress 4-3 on aggregate.
Goals from Keita Bald? – the second fastest in UEFA Europa League history – and Brayan Perea had put Lazio in a commanding position. Roman Bezjak and Hristo Zlatinski then swung the pendulum back in favour of the hosts, before Miroslav Klose hit back. More drama was to come, though, as Quixad? rounded off the scoring to set up a round of 16 showdown with either FC Dynamo Kyiv or Valencia CF.
This round of 32 second leg was precisely 16.88 seconds old when Bald? made the breakthrough. Collecting Vladislav Stoyanov's errant clearance on the left, the 18-year-old winger darted into the area and bundled the ball in from an acute angle. Bald? came to the fore again moments later, side-stepping his marker and firing centimetres wide of a post.
The passing was pure and precise from the Biancocelesti, who looked in little danger of conceding until Marcelinho flashed a shot wide after finding space inside the box. At the other end, Antonio Candreva should arguably have done better when he failed to find the target from a close-range free-kick.
There was no let-up from Lazio at the start of the second period, with Candreva curling over after combining intuitively with Lucas Biglia. The second goal they had threatened soon arrived, however. After breaking at pace, Ogenyi Onazi's judiciously weighted pass found Perea, who calmly slotted past Stoyanov.
The Bulgarian champions' response was spirited as Bezjak reduced the deficit minutes after rattling the woodwork. F?bio Espinho dissected Lazio's back line and the Slovenia striker thumped the ball into the top corner via a deflection. Zlatinski restored parity on the night 11 minutes later, Lazio keeper Federico Marchetti spilling his 25-metre effort over the line.
Their momentum was promptly punctured by Klose, though, as he followed up Biglia's parried header from close in. Not to be denied, Ludogorets landed the final blow on the Italian team in the 88th minute when Quixad? raced onto a long pass and flicked the ball over Marchetti.
- » NY Times: Bulgaria Grows Uneasy as Trump Complicates Ties to Russia
- » NY Times: As Support for EU Flags Elsewhere, Bulgaria Sees Its Benefits
- » DW: German Businesses Prefer Trade with Bulgaria over Investment
- » The Economist: Bulgaria, Moldova Presidents 'Less Pro-Russian Than Advertised'
- » AFP: Bulgaria's Radev 'Struck a Chord by Attacking the Status Quo'
- » Politico: Bulgaria May Veer Shaprly Back into Moscow Orbit after Presidential Vote