FC Koper narrowly missed out on completing a sensational fightback after beating NK Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 only to bow out 5-4 on aggregate in their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round decider.
The Slovenian champions had gone down 5-1 in last week's first leg, prompting the retirement of 38-year-old captain Miran Pavlin, but went within a whisker of a remarkable turnaround on home soil. Enes Handanagič's 11th-minute opener initially looked like mere consolation but Ivica Guberac added a second and Mitja Brulc a third – via the penalty spot – after Dinamo captain Igor Bišćan's dismissal to make for a nervy closing 12 minutes for the visitors.
Home skipper Handanagič's header from a Amir Karič corner had given Koper a glimmer of hope which turned to genuine belief nine minutes after the break, half-time substitute Guberac repeating the trick from another Karič set-piece delivery from the right. Bišćan was then shown a straight red card for a foul on Enej Jelenič and Brulc converted from the ensuing spot kick.
There was to be no grandstand finish, though, as the Croatian titleholders hung on to book a third qualifying round tie with Moldovan counterparts FC Sheriff, who progressed courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate triumph over KS Dinamo Tirana.