Stoicho Stoev had an improbably good first day in his new job, with a 3-0 win against ŠK Slovan Bratislava setting PFC Ludogorets Razgrad up for a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round meeting with FK Partizan.
Brought in to replace Ivaylo Petev after a 2-1 first-leg defeat against Slovan and ensuing 1-0 loss to newly promoted Lyubimets 2007 on the first day of the new Bulgarian season prompted his predecessor's departure, the 51-year-old made a flying start on Wednesday night. "Of course, I cannot change a lot in such a short period of time," Stoev said. "I wanted one or two more specific things on the pitch. The players responded well and accepted me.
When you win 3-0, you cannot feel anything but satisfaction for a job well done," added the Razgrad-born coach, who never played for a local side but made his name as a striker at PFC Lokomotiv Sofia from 1980-89. "There was a lot pressure on the team because of the two defeats last week and the arrival of a new coach. But the players gave their best and I think we deserved to win."
Having coached low-key clubs such as PFC Minior Pernik, PFC Montana 1921, PFC Akademik Svishtov and PFC Chavdar Etropole, Stoev has taken a big step up in joining the champions. "I have been coaching at modest clubs, but I have played the game at the top level," he said. "I hope my career will now move upwards at Ludogorets. It takes years to develop as a coach – some have luck, some don't. We will wait and see how it goes."
Winger Ivan Stoyanov marked his 30th birthday with the opening goal on Wednesday. "This is a really great gift for me – a goal, a win in front of our fans and a place in the next round," he said. "We are now looking forward to facing our next opponents with a newfound optimism. We all hoped for an early goal and thankfully we got it. We missed a lot of chances, but the most important thing is the win."
A nephew of Bulgarian legend Yordan Letchkov, Stoyanov has the added bonus of a meeting with his old PFC CSKA Sofia team-mate Ivan Ivanov – now a defender with Partizan – in the next round. "Ivan Ivanov is a good friend of mine and I do not want him making mistakes against us, but it is very important that we do well – for us and for the good of Bulgarian football," the 12-cap international added.
Stoyanov also paid tribute to departed coach Petev and hoped that this success would be a rallying point as Ludogorets (literal translation: crazy forest) go in search of a third successive league title. "We have seen only good things from Ivaylo Petev and would like to thank him for his excellent work," he explained. "But we have a new start now and we did not play well at the weekend. I hope this win over Slovan will kick-start our season."
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