In recognition of Vladislav Stoyanov's display in PFC Ludogorets Razgrad's play-off first leg, Stoyan Georgiev recalls other heroic exploits by Bulgarian keepers in UEFA competition.
PFC Ludogorets Razgrad and FC Steaua Bucureşti will vie for a UEFA Champions League group stage place on Wednesday – but for one man the Romanian side would already be making plans for Friday's draw. Vladislav Stoyanov was magnificent in last week's 1-0 defeat, making incredible save after incredible save. Our man in Sofia, Stoyan Georgiev, ranks the display in the pantheon of heroic performances by Bulgarian goalkeepers in UEFA competition.
Todor Krustev (Athletic Club v PFC Beroe Stara Zagora)
1973/74 European Cup Winners Cup round of 16
Leading 3-0 after a sensational first leg, Beroe arrived in Bilbao by train after thick fog grounded their flight. The visitors were quickly stopped in their tracks by the determined hosts, whose side included José Ángel Iribar, Iñaki Sáez and Ángel María Villar, but Athletic promptly hit the buffers when they came in sight of Krustev's goal.
José María Lasa did score before the half-hour mark but that was as good as it got for the Spanish outfit. Krustev made over 20 saves, playing the last 15 minutes with concussion for a team down to ten men following a career-ending injury to Georgi Belchev. "It was hell," recalled team-mate Nikola Kordov. "There were 60,000 screaming and Bilbao put us under unbearable pressure. We survived thanks to Todor. It was the game of his life."
Georgi Velinov (Real Sociedad de Fútbol v PFC CSKA Sofia)
1981/82 European Champion Clubs' Cup round of 16
The best in Spain – Real Sociedad were on course for back-to-back Liga titles – versus a CSKA side dominating Bulgarian football. Tsvetan Yonchev's late strike separated the teams in a tight first leg but the second instalment was a rather different affair. La Real bombarded CSKA's defence, marshalled by the great Georgi Dimitrov, though it was his namesake in goal Georgi Velinov who shined brightest of all.
"I have tried for years to find a recording of the game. Many goalkeepers may decide to hang up their boots when they see my saves," he recalled. "The whole game was played in front of my goal. I remember making about 20 saves. One is as clear as day, even now. A cross by Ufarte and a point-blank save with one hand to keep out Satrustegi's powerful header." CSKA beat Liverpool FC in the quarter-finals before losing to FC Bayern München.
Borislav Mihaylov (PFC Levski Sofia v VfB Stuttgart)
1983/84 UEFA Cup first round
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Stuttgart dominated the return. Now Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) president, Borislav Mihaylov was then just 20 and duly announced himself on the big stage. He made save after save as the visitors laid siege to the home goal and going into the final ten minutes the Stuttgart players were almost queueing up to have a go. Mihaylov stood tall.
Then the twist, as in the last minute Levski finally made it out of their own half on the counterattack and Mihail Valchev scored the winner. "With Levski I met Stuttgart two seasons in a row and we went through on both occasions," says Mihaylov. "These were the games of my life. Such games will never be forgotten. We had such a great side and we were strong as a team – that's why we were so successful."
Iliya Valov (Roda JC v PFC CSKA Sofia)
1988/89 European Cup Winners' Cup quarter-finals
Valov conceded twice as Roda overturned a 2-1 first-leg defeat – but it could have been so much more. The Dutch team threatened to run away with the tie after nudging ahead soon after half-time, but the keeper kept them at bay, setting the platform for Hristo Stoichkov's opportunistic strike to force extra time. Valov's valour continued right until the end as he saved penalties from Michel Boerebach and Alfons Groenendijk to seal progress.
Vladislav Stoyanov (FC Steaua Bucureşti v PFC Ludogorets Razgrad)
2014/15 UEFA Champions league play-offs round
Alexandru Chipciu's late strike earned Steaua victory last week but for most in the Romanian capital the question was how had it taken so long? In Stoyanov there was an obvious answer. A point-blank save kept out an earlier Chipciu effort as well as a penalty – he has previous on spot kicks, with saves last season against ŠK Slovan Bratislava and SS Lazio in Ludogerets' run to the UEFA Europa League round of 16. If Ludogorets are to progress tonight, they may need more from their goalkeeper.