An Ivan Todorov goal five minutes from time helped ten-man South-West Region-Sofia reach the UEFA Regions' Cup final with a 2-2 draw against Central Slovakia.
Ivan Iliev's men claimed top spot in Group A after a magnificent game in Zabierzow, but Ján Petrák's side came agonisngly close to the victory which would have seen them pip the Bulgarian team and join Spanish representatives Vasca in Saturday's final in Proszowice.
Off the post
The first half saw both teams playing some tactically-disciplined football, but with Sofia seemingly happy to soak up the pressure and hit the Slovakians on the break, knowing that a draw would put them in the final. Central Slovakia came close to taking the lead after 30 minutes as Bohus Drugda's angled shot slammed against Krasimir Gyorev's post.
However, the game really came to life after 66 minutes when the Bulgarians took the lead. Todorov slid the ball across the six-yard box from the right to find an off-balance Georgi Kalaydjiev at the far post. He managed to get back on to his feet and move infield before slamming the ball under Peter Pernis.
That goal prompted wild celebrations on the Sofia bench, but they were to be silenced after 72 minutes when Marián Berky - who had already ruled himself out of any putative appearance by picking up his second yellow card of the finals - chipped a sweet free-kick from a central position beyond the diving Gyorev.
Three minutes later, Sofia were reduced to ten men as Tzvetko Ivanov was shown the red card for a late challenge, and Central Slovakia took full advantage as a ball from the right found Maros Fojtik on the edge of the penalty area. He drove a fierce shot in off the underside of the bar to put the Slovakians ahead.
However, the Bulgarians found new reserves of composure and managed to find what proved to be a decisive goal after 85 minutes as they were awarded a free-kick on the left. Kalaydjiev speared a free-kick across the area and Todorov - the tournament's top scorer so far with four goals - glanced a header across Pernis and into the net.
The final minutes were frenzied and tense but the Bulgarian defence managed to cling on in the face of a Slovakian onslaught to keep the draw they deserved. The nearest the Slovakians came to a winner was when Drugda lifted a free-kick over the crossbar two minutes into added time.
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