Albania Clash Brings Shame on Bulgaria
An own goal by defender Radostin Kishishev, who tied for seventh in the list of most-capped Bulgarian players with his 80th appearance on the night, put the hosts in the lead in the 31st minute when he headed the ball into his own net.
Albania dominated possession and could have gone ahead already in the third minute, but Klodian Duro's volley hit the crossbar.
Despite a good start, Bulgarian forays into the opponents' box died out as the half progressed, but pulled itself back into the game with two changes and a flurry of attacks after the interval, only for Ivelin Popov and Martin Petrov to miss their chances.
The visitors' chase for an equalizer, however, left them exposed at the back, but Petkov kept his team in the game with a string of good saves.
Bulgaria finally evened the score with three minutes left in the game, captain Dimitar Berbatov coolly slotting home from inside the penalty area and overtaking Hristo Stoichkov on the all-time scorers list with his 38th international goal.
Albania had an opportunity to snatch the win at the death when Austrian referee Fritz Stuchlik pointed to the spot after the ball was handled in the penalty area, but Petkov saved Skela's spot kick, adding two more saves in the added time to secure a point for his side.
But with Romania beating Luxembourg 2-0 and Holland notching a win by the same scoreline against Slovenia, Bulgaria is all but out of the reckoning for next year's tournament.
Captain Dimitar Berbatov described the clash as "something the team should be ashamed of".
"The coach is not to blame. Dimitar Penev does his job, but on the field it is all up to the players," he added.
Romania is top of group G and have secured qualification with 26 points and two games remaining - against Bulgaria in Sofia and Albania at home.
Holland trails them by three points, but face easier competition playing at home against Luxembourg before traveling to Belarus for their last two games next moth.
Bulgaria is another four points adrift and needs to win both against Romania and away in Slovenia, while praying for Holland to self-destruct in their remaining fixtures, to stand a chance of qualifying for EURO 2008.
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I dont see anything dramatic in this result - if the BG team plays so weakly for whatever reason we have nothing to do in the Euro2008. We must improve and try again.
Football is a pretty objective game when it comes to the average performance of a team in 10 or more games.