Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bulgaria Update

For the fourth year in a row, the soccer championship of Bulgaria was won by Ludogorets Razgrad.  You will recall that we have followed the exploits of Ludogorets in their efforts to win the championship of Europe.  Here's how they've done in recent years:

2012-13:  Ludogorets was eliminated in the Second Qualifying Round by Dinamo Zagreb of Croatia.  The aggregate score over two matches was 4-3.

2013-14:   Ludogorets advanced from the Second Qualifying Round with a 4-2 aggregate victory over Slovan Bratislava of Slovakia.  Ludogorets advanced from the Third Qualifying Round with a 3-1 aggregate victory over Partizan of Serbia.  Ludogorets was eliminated in the Playoff Round with a 6-2 aggregate loss to Basel of Switzerland.

2014-15:  Ludogorets became only the second Bulgarian team in history to reach the Group Stages of the Champions' League.  In the Second Qualifying Round, Ludogorets scored a 5-1 aggregate victory over F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg.  In the Third Qualifying Round, Ludogorets and Partizan of Serbia finished with an aggregate score of 2-2, but Ludogorets advanced on the away goals.  In the Playoff Round, Ludogorets and Steaua Bucharest of Romania played to an aggregate score of 1-1 with no difference in away goals.  Ludogorets won the penalty shootout 6-5 to advance to the Group Stages.  In the Group Stages, Ludogorets was in a group with Real Madrid (of Spain), Basel (of Switzerland), and Liverpool (of England).  Ludogorets went 1-4-1 in the Group -- they beat Basel at home, drew with Liverpool at home, and lost the other four games.  They finished fourth in the Group, and were therefore eliminated.

So Ludogorets are old hands at Champions' League play.  Given that history, I wouldn't have expected them to have too much trouble with Milsami Orhei, champions of the tiny nation of Moldova.  But the Moldovan team stunned Ludogorets, beating them 1-0 in the first leg (at Ludogorets) and finishing them off with a 2-1 win in Moldova.  The aggregate loss of 3-1 means that for the first time since the 2012-13 season, no team from Bulgaria has reached the Third Qualifying Round.  A big disappointment for Bulgarian fans, who will have to get by with their memories from last year's run.

1 comment: