Striker Svetoslav Todorov's presence has gone hand-in-hand with success for PFC Litex Lovech. He was in the side that won the Oranges' first Bulgarian league titles in 1998 and 1999, and Litex did not win another championship until his return, taking further crowns in 2010 and 2011.
The former West Ham United FC and Portsmouth FC forward, whose eight-year stint in England was blighted by injury, was once more the talisman when Litex trailed 1-0 at FK Mogren of Montenegro in last Tuesday's UEFA Champions League second qualifying round opener. Todorov came off the bench in Podgorica to win the game with goals in the 77th and 79th minutes, yet he was eager to play down his contribution.
"I do not consider myself the hero of this game," said the 32-year-old, nicknamed 'Toddy' in England. "The heroes were the players who started the match in extremely difficult conditions because of the heat. They deserve the real credit for their efforts. I came on in the second half alongside Momchil Tsvetanov with the team trailing and we wanted to help. We did exactly that and the most important thing is that we won."
With an away victory secured, the advantage is with Litex going into Tuesday's decider in Bulgaria, but the wily Todorov knows the tie is far from over. "Mogren played very well and made it hard for us," said the 42-cap former Bulgarian international. "The first leg was a really tough match. They defended very well.
They are a physical side and I think the tie is not decided. I am sure it will not be easy in the return leg. We must not underestimate them."
Even at this early stage, Luboslav Penev's Litex are taking the competition very seriously. Todorov, who rejoined the north-central club in 2009, explained: "Litex have won everything in Bulgaria, but the target is to make a breakthrough in Europe. Everyone at the club is working hard for that." They cannot have failed to notice, then, that should they get past Mogren, a meeting with Poland's Wisła Kraków most likely awaits them in the third qualifying round.
That will revive less than positive memories for Todorov, who featured in an ill-fated second qualifying round encounter with another Polish team, RTS Widzew Łódź, in the 1999/2000 edition. Todorov scored twice as Litex won the home leg 4-1, and again as his side reached half-time of the return fixture level at 1-1. However, his interval substitution prompted a collapse and Litex lost 4-1 before bowing out on penalties.
"Of course, my memories of my first three European goals for Litex are not so fond after such a dramatic exit," said the former Charlton Athletic FC and Wigan Athletic FC man. "A defeat like that was hard to take." That reverse – never mind the four titles won with Todorov in harness – may persuade coach Penev not to give him any early baths this time.
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