Bulgaria twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at home to Belgium in the Vassil Levski stadium in Sofia in UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 8.
The win kept Plamen Markov's side top of the section, but Belgium slipped to fourth in the standings following Estonia's 2-0 win against an Andorra side they themselves face next in Gand on Wednesday. Bulgaria's next assignment, meanwhile, is at home to Estonia in September.
The home side began the brighter, and created three clear goalscoring chances within the first ten minutes, with Daniel Borimirov shooting straight at Geert De Vlieger, before both Rosen Kirilov and Marian Hristov failed to find the target when well-placed. Hristov then had an even better chance on the quarter-hour, but his shot was blocked by as De Vlieger.
Buffel goes close
The away side initially struggled to get out of their own half but might have taken the lead midway through the first period as Bart Goor's chip found Thomas Buffel in time and space inside the penalty area, but at full stretch the midfield player sent his shot just wide.
Bulgaria rallied immediately, and struck the post twice in four minutes, as Martin Petrov's cross was headed against the right-hand post by Dimitar Berbatov with De Vlieger beaten, before Hristov glanced a header beyond the Belgium goalkeeper only to see the ball strike the other upright.
A minute past the half-hour, and against the run of play, the away team took the lead. Eric Deflandre worked space down the right, and his cross into the penalty area was diverted beyond a wrong-footed Zdravko Zdravkov by Bulgaria captain Stilian Petrov.
Bulgaria almost responded quickly, as Martin Petrov's corner was met by a towering header from Berbatov which again beat De Vlieger, but Mbo Mpenza was on hand to head the ball off the line.
The game followed a similar pattern in the second half, and on 52 minutes Bulgaria deservedly drew level, as Stilian Petrov's deep cross picked out Berbatov peeling away from his marker, and the striker's thumping header gave De Vlieger no chance.
Parity lasted only four minutes, however, as Belgium won a free-kick midway inside the Bulgaria half, and Walter Baseggio's ball into the area found Philippe Clement totally unmarked, and his header was equally emphatic.
Initially it seemed as if the home side would struggle to recover again, but 19 minutes from time the ball broke for Borimirov inside the penalty area and, as he burst forward, the midfield player was tripped by Baseggio. Substitute Svetoslav Todorov made no mistake, sending De Vlieger the wrong way from the spot.
Chances at both ends
Both sides might have won the game, with Bulgarian substitute Vladimir Manchev and Belgian replacement Emile Mpenza each having good chances, but neither were able to keep their efforts down.
'No room for pessimism'
Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov chose to dwell on the positive aspects of his side's display afterwards, saying: "We lost two points because we had no luck. However, there is no room for pessimism - wins will surely follow with this style of play."