Coach Vladimir Petrović put FK Crvena Zvezda's remarkable recovery against FC Dinamo Tbilisi down to their "great heart" after they hit back from 3-0 down in the tie to claim a place in the UEFA Europa League play-offs.
The Serbian side lost the first leg 2-0 and looked on their way out when Dejan Lekić scored an own goal to add to the deficit only two minutes into the second leg in Belgrade. Slavko Perović equalised on the night in the 18th minute only for Mate Vatsadze to restore Dinamo's advantage soon after. Lekić, however, sparked a remarkable comeback with two goals before half-time.
Even so, the home side's chances appeared to have gone when Slavoljub Djordjević was sent off 25 minutes into the second half, but Carlos Mendes's penalty six minutes later gave Crvena Zvezda hope once again. They were still facing elimination on the away-goals rule until Lekić struck to complete a memorable hat-trick with two minutes to play, Crvena Zvezda running out 5-2 winners on the night and 5-4 on aggregate.
"When you are trailing 2-0 from the first leg and score an own goal in the second minute of the second leg, 99.9 per cent of the time you lose," coach Petrović said. "That wasn't the case with us last night. We simply continued to play our game. I insisted on attacking from both wings and we did just that. This team is not full of stars, like in the past, but it has great heart and we work as one. With players like that, I can go into each battle without fear. I don't want to think about our next opponent, I am just concentrating on my team and the way we play. We'll see how far we go."
Petrović added: "I want to congratulate my players who showed a great level of professionalism and mental strength to find the energy when they needed it, even when we were in a big hole twice during the game. Their determination and desire to win, together with their high tactical and technical skills were amazing. As their coach, I must be proud and I am. I also have to stress our biggest advantage: our fans. More than 25,000 of them helped us with their songs and support. They lifted us and I have to thank them. Without that, everything would probably have been different."
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