Goalkeeper Juraj Čobej was the hero for FC Artmedia Bratislava as the obdurate Slovakian side sealed a berth in the UEFA Champions League group stage following a penalty shoot-out in Belgrade, after their tie against FK Partizan had finished goalless following extra-time.
Čobej was in stunning form throughout the tie, making a series of saves to keep the home side at bay before coming to the fore as the tie moved to its dramatic finale. The Artmedia custodian denied Nenad Brnović to hand the visitors a famous 4-3 sudden-death shoot-out victory and become only the second Slovakian side to progress to the group stage of Europe’s premier club competition.
It was a dramatic end to an enthralling encounter that for large periods had simple pitted Partizan's attack against Artmedia’s defence. The home side's Simon Vukčević orchestrated much of the opening stages, and almost broke the deadlock on 15 minutes, shooting narrowly wide after a strong solo run. Vukčević turned provider later on in the half, crossing for Ivan Tomić to head goalwards.
However, Čobej saved well and it was to become a familiar sight as he grew in stature, and he made a stunning stop to deny Vukčević later on in the half. Partizan were also guilty of some wasteful finishing and Tomić contrived to miss the target when superbly placed five minutes after the interval before Nenad Djordjevic headed over from five meters after Vukčević's corner.
Čobej returned to the fore to deny Pierre Boya with the game moving into the final quarter. Juraj Halenár forced Kralj into his first save of the game on 74 minutes but with the game going into extra-time, Partizan had their best chance of the night, when Čobej parried Marko Lomić's shot into the path of substitute Nikola Grubješić, who missed from five metres.
It was Vladimír Weiss' side, who knocked out former European champions Celtic FC in the last round, who looked stronger and only a superb reflex save from Kralj prevented Halenár from sealing the win in extra time, before his Artmedia counterpart Čobej had his moment of glory.