Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bulgaria Update

Thanks to Eric for the excellent coverage of today's big match.  Here's a wrap-up of the latest news in Bulgarian soccer.

Today in Belgrade, Serbia, Ludogorets Razgrad, the champions of Bulgaria, advanced into the playoff round with a 1-0 win over homestanding Partizan Belgrade.  The victory gave Ludogorets a 3-1 aggregate victory, and means that their quest to reach the 32-team Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League continues.

Remember, Ludogorets qualified for the Champions' League by winning the Bulgarian title last year.  But to reach the group stages, they have to get through three playoff rounds.

They started in the Second Qualifying Round, where they opened with a 2-1 loss to Slovan Bratislava, champions of the Slovak Republic.  After firing the very coach who took them to the Bulgarian title last year, Ludogorets roared back with a 3-0 victory at home to beat Slovan by an aggregate score of 4-2.

That put them in the Third Qualifying Round against Partizan Belgrade, the champions of Serbia, who had eliminated Shirak (champions of Armenia) in the Second Qualifying Round.  In the first leg, played in Razgrad, Bulgaria, Ludogorets fell behind, but came back for a 2-1 victory.  Today, they had to defend that lead in Belgrade.  The pressure was brutal.  All Partizan needed was to win by 1-0, and they would advance under the away goals rule.

Not much happened in the early stages of the game, but by the midway point of the second half, Partizan was camped in the Ludogorets end, launching attack after attack in a desperate attempt to get the goal they needed.  Americans who think no one can score in soccer don't usually realize that most of the time no one is trying to score; soccer is a game that rewards the defense.  But when soccer teams throw everything forward, and really try to score, they are not easy to stop.  Time after time, Partizan had great chances that they either missed or lost due to a great save.  At one point, Partizan actually beat the Ludogorets goalkeeper -- only to have one of the defenders clear the ball with his foot before it could go in the net.

But there's a reason most soccer teams don't like to attack, and Partizan eventually paid the price.  With only a few minutes remaining, Ludogorets cleared the ball and got a runout toward the other end.  Partizan could only prevent a goal by knocking down the Ludogorets player in the penalty area.  The referee (Alan Kelly of Ireland) did the right thing and gave Ludogorets the penalty kick they deserved.  Hristo Zlatinski slotted home the kick to give Ludogorets the only goal of the match, and the Bulgarian team was onto the next round.

We don't yet know who Ludogorets will play in the next round -- but if they can survive this match, they will be in the Group Stages.  That would mean that they would be in a four-team group against three of the biggest clubs in the world -- and they would play home-and-home matches with each of the other three clubs.  If you can imagine how folks at Morehead State would feel about the chance to play six games home-and-home against, say, UCLA, Ohio State, and Florida, then you will have a good sense of how excited the Ludogorets fans are right now.  We wish them all the best.

7 comments:

  1. Интернет е невероятно.™

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  2. Replies
    1. Maybe the "special choreography" will be provided by С хора.

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