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Tampere United of Finland will compete in the third and final qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League for the first time after completing 1-0 home and away victories against PFC Levski Sofia in the Bulgarian capital.
Having reached the group stage last season, Levski were strongly fancied to eliminate a Tampere side whose two-legged success against San Marino's S.S. Murata in the previous round had been their first in the competition. Instead, Jari Niemi struck in the 40th minute at the Vasil Levski National Stadium to leave Levski needing three goals to advance, a feat they never looked like achieving. Tampere's reward is a tie against fellow Scandinavians Rosenborg BK, who defeated FC Astana.
Levski started with Borislav Hristov in central defence following injuries to the captain Elin Topuzakov and Igor Tomašić, and the home side had the better of a quiet opening half-hour. Opportunities were created soon after, Hristo Yovov forcing Mikko Kavén into a save and Miroslav Ivanov fizzing a shot over, although when the goal came it went the way of Tampere. A quick free-kick found its way to Tomi Petrescu out on the right and the first-leg scorer whipped in a cross which Niemi collected near the penalty spot before beating goalkeeper Georgi Petkov with a clinical drive.
Home coach Stanimir Stoilov reacted immediately by replacing Hristov with the experienced, but not fully fit, Daniel Borimirov, and also brought on forward Ekundayo Jaiyeoba after half-time. The Nigerian almost made an immediate impact, forcing Kavén into a fine save before seeing a goal chalked out for offside. Kavén also denied Valeri Domovchiyski and Lucio Wagner, although Levski soon ran out of ideas as their European hopes ended for another year.
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