By Fatjon Pandovski
KF Tirana may have been trailing 2-0 at the start of the second leg of their UEFA Champions League first qualifying round tie against NK Gorica, but by half-time they were ahead on aggregate and duly sealed their progress.
The Albanian champions conceded two second-half goals last week against a team that were eliminated by AS Monaco FC in their maiden competition in 2003/04. And by the 37-minute mark in tonight's return they could have been further behind if it were not for the saves of in-form Tirana goalkeeper Isli Hidi.
Then the comeback began. Altin Rraklli, who turned 35 on Monday, pulled one back for Tirana. Three minutes later defender Rezart Dabulla levelled the tie, and recent arrival Hamdi Salihi completed a remarkable spell not long before half-time to put the home team ahead for the first time in the tie.
CSKA Sofia await
There was nothing Gorica, who reached the third qualifying round last season, could do to recover, as the crowd, which had numbered not much more than 1,000 at kick-off, swelled to around 4,500. Tirana will welcome PFC CSKA Sofia to their Qemal Stafa stadium next week before a trip to Bulgaria for the return.