PFC CSKA Sofia wrote another glorious chapter in their history on Thursday night when they recorded their first win in Germany against Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Striker Yordan Todorov was the hero, exploiting a defensive error to score the only goal of the game after 15 minutes, but he was eager to share the credit with his team-mates. "Everybody is a hero for CSKA, not just me," he said. "I anticipated Athirson's mistake and took advantage. That's why I'm so happy."
The Bulgarian press did not question Todorov's assessment. Sports paper 7 Days said: "The priceless goal was scored by Yordan Todorov but the whole team was great." Meanwhile, Meridian Match could see the gravity of the occasion, calling the win "a historic success for Bulgarian football".
Travelling in style
CSKA have been impressive on their travels in Europe this season, securing wins at KF Tirana and Liverpool FC in UEFA Champions League qualifying and now this latest victory against the 2001/02 Champions League finalists. This win was certainly a mark of the 30-time Bulgarian champions' resilience.
For defender Valentin Iliev, that came down to an excellent team spirit and the willingness of all players to help out at the back. "It was very tough for us but the most important thing is that we won," he said. "The whole team defended very well and the midfielders and forwards helped us a lot."
The club's Serbo-Montenegrin coach Miodrag Ješić, known as 'The General', was impressed with his side. "Today the boys have shown again that they are a big team. We have done half of our job. We will do our best in the second leg and I hope CSKA can qualify for the group stage."
Ješic has masterminded major changes to the CSKA squad in recent months, bringing in the likes of Mourad Hdiouad, Guillaume Dah Zadi, Sergej Jakirović and goalkeeper Dejan Maksić to piece together a team with plenty of talent and a particular strength in midfield.
Maksić was the hero with five minutes to go when he pulled off a fine save from Juan as Leverkusen threatened to draw level. "I guessed Juan's intentions and saved his shot," he said. "Now I hope we will reach the group stage. If we play like today we will not have any problems."
As they look ahead to the second leg, CSKA have the comfort of knowing they have scored in their last eleven European games. Ješić, however, knows they can expect a Leverkusen backlash in Bulgaria. "German teams never surrender and we must show the same level of commitment during the return leg," he warned.
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