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Levski's greatest European nights

Published: Tuesday 27 May 2014, 9.00CET
From tussles with FC Barcelona and SL Benfica to success against AFC Ajax, looks at PFC Levski Sofia's greatest European nights to celebrate their centenary.
by Stoyan Georgiev
from Sofia
Levski's greatest European nights
Borislav Mihaylov heroics secured Levski success against Stuttgart in 1983 ©Getty Images
Published: Tuesday 27 May 2014, 9.00CET

Levski's greatest European nights

From tussles with FC Barcelona and SL Benfica to success against AFC Ajax, looks at PFC Levski Sofia's greatest European nights to celebrate their centenary.

On Saturday, PFC Levski Sofia celebrated their 100th birthday with a friendly against SS Lazio at the Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski in Sofia, a game which culminated centenary celebrations as 40,000 fans enjoyed the occasion which honoured former greats before kick-off. To mark the club's century, looks back at ten of Levski's greatest European nights.

Levski 2-2 SL Benfica, European Champion Clubs' Cup first round first leg, 10 November 1965
Featuring two of the decade's great strikers in the shape of Levski's Georgi Asparuhov and Benfica's Eusébio, the sides played out a fierce encounter. Asparuhov gave Levski the lead after just five minutes but Eusébio struck back in the 22nd. Asparuhov assisted for Simeon Nikolov's goal 15 minutes into the second half only for Eusébio to have the final word four minutes later. Asparuhov struck two more in the return, but the Eagles won 3-2 in Lisbon to sneak through.

Levski 2-1 AFC Ajax (Levski win 5-3 on penalties), UEFA Cup third round second leg, 10 December 1975
Without doubt Levski's greatest night in Europe. Against the three-time European champions, with Rinus Michels at the helm, the Blues carried a 2-1 deficit into the second leg in the Bulgarian capital, but a pair of goals from Pavel Panov took the game into extra time, and then penalties. There were no mistakes from the spot from the five Levski takers, and Dick Helling's miss for Ajax put the hosts into the quarter-finals.

Levski 5-4 Barcelona, UEFA Cup quarter-final second leg, 17 March 1976
Having lost 4-0 in the first leg at the Camp Nou, the Bulgarian side restored pride in the return with a thrilling display of all-out attack. The Catalan side found themselves two down inside ten minutes following goals from Pavel Panov and Yordan Yordanov. However, a Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens-inspired Barcelona roared back and were 4-3 ahead going into the closing stages, only for Yordanov and Panov to score again in the final three minutes.

Levski 2-1 Club Atlético de Madrid, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup quarter-final first leg, 2 March 1977
Levski zoomed into the leaf in the first half with strikes from Georgi Tsvetkov and Kiril Milanov. Midway the second half Bermejo pulled one goal back for Atlético, however, and prevailed 2-0 in the return to make the semis.

FC Dynamo Kyiv 1-1 Levski, UEFA Cup first round first leg, 19 September 1980
Against a mighty Dynamo side under the guidance of the legendary Valery Lobanovskiy, Levski were not given a chance but went ahead through midfield maestro Emil Spasov in the 25th minute. Leonid Burjak levelled from the penalty spot seven minutes prior to the break, before Levski's substitute goalkeeper Vlado Delchev produced the performance of his life to help his side clinch a draw. They they progressed on away goals following a 0-0 draw in the second leg.

Levski 1-0 Vfb Stuttgart, UEFA Cup first round second leg, 28 September 1983
With Vasil Metodiev building an extremely competitive young side, the 1983/84 UEFA Cup tie against Stuttgart was the real acid test. Having managed a 1-1 draw in West Germany two weeks earlier, goalkeeper Borislav Mihaylov, now president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS), pulled off a string of superb saves to keep Stuttgart at a bay. In the last minute Mihail Valchev broke clear to slot in the winner and earn a fully deserved 2-1 aggregate success for the men in blue.

Vfb Stuttgart 2-2 Levski, European Champions Clubs' Cup first-round second leg, 3 October 1984
The German side proved the victims again, but Stuttgart had seem strongly placed at the tie's halfway stage having earned a 1-1 draw in Bulgaria. However, Levski put in what many regard as their greatest ever away performance to progress with a 2-2 draw in the VfB Arena. After twice trailing to Karl Allgöwer goals, Vasil Metodiev's men struck back, first through stylish defender Nikolay Iliev in the 29th minute, before Plamen Tsvetkov's unforgettable volley made it 2-2 in the 59th minute.

Levski 2-1 Rangers FC, UEFA Champions League first round second leg, 29 September 1993
Having lost 3-2 at Ibrox, Levski's fans witnessed another great night in the pouring rain at the national stadium. Nasko Sirakov gave the Blues the lead in the 36th minute with a great piece of individual skill, but Ian Durrant equalised for the Scottish champions just before the break. With the clock ticking towards the end, Nikolay Todorov blasted a rocket into the top right corner of Ally Maxwell's goal to send the crowd wild.

Levski 2-0 AC Chievo Verona, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg, 9 August 2006
Levski became the first and, so far, the only Bulgarian side to have reached the UEFA Champions League group stage – a success which was built on this 2-0 win against the Italians. Valeri Domovciyski's strike and Cedric Bardon's penalty earned the crucial victory, which was backed up by a 2-2 draw in Italy to ensure the club made history.

Levski 2-1 Udinese Calcio, UEFA Cup round of 16 second leg, 16 March 2006
The Bulgarians last reached a quarter-final of a UEFA competition after a great comeback triumph over Udinese. After a 0-0 draw at Stadio Friuli, the Italian side took a 1-0 lead in the return midway through the first half. Levski came out for the second period determined to prolong their stay in the competition and veteran midfielder Daniel Borimirov brought it level in the 51st minute before defender Igor Tomašić headed in the winner.

Last updated: 27/05/14 16.00CET

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