PFC Lokomotiv Sofia maintained their flying start to the second half of the season at the weekend with a seventh victory in as many games since the winter break, a run that has lifted the club to third in A PFG.
Saturday's 3-2 victory over fellow top-three contenders PFC Cherno More Varna, following a spectacular 3-0 win at second-placed PFC Levski Sofia the week before, was further proof of Lokomotiv's recent transformation. When the first half of the season ended, the Railwaymen had scored 13 goals, conceded the same number and reached sixth in the table. In their first seven games since the restart, Dragomir Okuka's men have rattled in 23 goals and conceded just three as they set a course for next season's UEFA Europa League.
The reason for the turnaround in the club's fortunes is simple – two key signings during the transfer window. Striker Martin Kamburov, who joined after a disappointing spell in Greece with Asteras Tripolis FC, has hit ten goals in six matches, while praise is also due to midfielder Kaloyan Karadzinov, who has successfully shielded the Lokomotiv defence. The headlines inevitably go to Kamburov, who was the Bulgarian league's top scorer in 2004 and 2005 with PFC Lokomotiv Plovdiv 1936 and is now hoping for a third triumph, despite the 28-year-old's late start to the season. "He's a very important signing for us," said Okuka. "Now we can play attacking football and score a lot of goals. That was a problem during the first half of the season, when we tried so many different schemes and options. We badly needed such a prolific goalscorer."
Karadzinov, who is back at the club after a spell in China and then at PFC Botev Plovdiv, has added the missing grit and physical presence in midfield. "Karadzinov is also very important," acknowledged Okuka. "He allows us to use our attacking style in the best possible way." Looking ahead, the Railwaymen know they may yet catch Levski, who are six points above them, but that a title shot is unlikely given the ten-point gap to make up on PFC CSKA Sofia with eight games to play.
Serbian Okuka, who has won league titles in former Yugoslavia with FK Obilić and Poland with Legia Warszawa, is happy just to make life difficult for the league leaders. "We fear no one and try to play attractive football," he said. "It is better for A PFG to have more teams like us – there should be more competition for CSKA Sofia and Levski Sofia. Right now we're playing for pleasure and the results are coming. But there are still a lot of games and it's hard to predict where we will finish. I believe we can retain our form and the current position in the table." But, doubtess with an eye on next season, he added: "We need two or three quality players to challenge for the title."
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