Champions League: Vidi oust Bulgarian champions
MOL Vidi FC continued their excellent European form by defeating ten-man Ludogorets of Bulgaria 1-0 at the Pancho Aréna on Wednesday evening to progress to a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie with Malmö, Blazel Hadžić scoring the vital goal just before half-time.
Vidi were under pressure from the very start, a deflection denying Wanderson the opportunity to test home-team goalkeeper Ádám Kovácsik with his opening shot in the third minute of the match.
MOL Vidi's response came six minutes later when István Kovács dispossessed a Ludogorets midfielder and surged forward 40 metres unimpeded, only to fire his right- footed drive high over the crossbar as he approached the Bulgarian team's penalty area in a central position. Vidi were certainly up for the fight and often outmuscled their opponents or pressed them hard in their own half as they sought to launch counter attacks. Chances to threaten the visitors' goal were rare though, not helped by striker Marko Scepovic's propensity to find himself offside having not received a through pass early enough.
Kovács did manage to release Nego free on the right wing in the 32nd minute, the French former Under 19 European Championship winner doing well to control the skidding, low pass first-time but he could only skew his subsequent shot wide of the near right post from a relatively tight angle 14 metres from goal.
The next moment of drama swung the match decisively in the Székesfehérvár's favour though, when Ludogorets forward Misidjan was given a second yellow card for simulation having already been booked for not retreating quickly enough before a free-kick a few minutes earlier. The Bulgarian team's players protested vehemently but to no avail as they faced the prospect of playing the remaining 50 minutes with ten men.
Life would get even better for an increasingly confident Vidi in the final minute of normal time in the first period when a raking crossfield pass eventually found Nego whose shot from a tight angle was diverted behind for a corner by the outstretched left leg of Ludogorets goalkeeper Renan. From the ensuing set-piece, Stopira's free header from ten metres bulleted downwards towards goal but Renan made a superb block before a defender hooked the ball away for another Vidi corner.
Star summer signing Szabolcs Huszti's cross in from the right sailed over Stopira's head but Nego rescued it and returned it to Huszti on the far left side for the former Hungary international to cross to Stopira, the ping-pong nature of the move ending when he headed the ball back across the six-yard box for Blazel Hadžić to prod the ball into the centre of the goal.
That precious one-goal, half-time lead put Vidi in charge of the tie for the first time but an equaliser would propel the away side into pole position, so it was no surprise that there was still a sense of nervousness about the hosts' general play. Ludogorets felt this too and were always looking to get on the front foot, substitute Góralski driving the ball just over the bar in the 54th minute and Kovácsik safely gathering Świerczok's low, 18-metre effort five minutes later.
Sandwiched between those two threats on the home goal was Vidi's first chance of the second half but the otherwise-impressive Nego disappointingly curled the ball with his right foot into Renan's arms after advancing across the pitch and into the left channel before then checking back to gain a sight of goal.
Soon after, a tiring Marko Šćepović made way for his brother Stefan Šćepović and the substitute was immediately in the action, crossing low from the right wing in the 76th minute to Huszti who diverted the ball towards the far right side goal, only for Renan to keep his side in the game with a desperate scoop away with his right hand.
It looked like it would take a moment of magic or a bizarre occurrence for the Bulgarian champions to stay in the competition, the latter very nearly coming to pass when another substitute, Joao Paulo, flighted a deep, left-wing free-kick onto the crossbar with his right foot from fully 30 metres.
The suspense was palpable as the match denouement drew near, yellow cards and substitutions abounding as Ludogorets loaded on the presure and Vidi sought to slow the game down and waste vital seconds and minutes.
Visiting midfielder Claudiu Keșerü - stationed upfront as the game entered added time - sent pulse rates soaring with a cute lob from the right side of the penalty area which somehow just failed to drop inside the far left corner side of the goal, before Nego spurned a golden chance to win the match when he was released in on goal but slotted the ball wide of the near right post after rounding the keeper.
There was still time for Joao Paulo to blaze a drive over the bar from the left channel 22 metres from goal but that proved to be the last opportunity for Ludogorets, Vidi proving too much for them as the Hungarian title-holders move on to a tie with Malmö of Sweden in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, already matching their best ever performance in the competition.
MOL Vidi FC 1–0 Ludogorets (BUL) 1–0 (HT: 1–0)
Felcsút, 2878 spectators, ref.: Schüttengruber (AUT)
Goalscorers: Hadzic (45.)
Red card: Vura (40.)
Yellow cards: Fiola (36.), Hadzic (45+2.), Huszti (85.), Nikolov (94.), illetve Marcelinho (26.), Vura (29., 40.), Djakov (71.), Góralski (85.), Moti (87.)
MOL Vidi FC: Kovácsik - Fiola, Juhász R., Vinícius, Stopira - Nego, Varga J., Hadzic (Nikolov, 88.), Huszti - Kovács I. (Pátkai, 90.), M. Scepovic (S. Scepovic, 75.)
Ludogorets: Renán - Cicinho, Moti, Terziev, Natanael - Djakov, Campanharo (Góralski, 46.) - Wanderson (Joao Paulo, 74.), Marcelinho, Vura - Swierczok (Keserü, 67.)