Blackburn Rovers FC lost a three-goal lead against PFC CSKA Sofia at the Bulgarska Armia stadium yet still managed to squeeze through to the UEFA Cup second round on away goals.
Three goals from CSKA substitutes Emil Gargorov (2) and Agnaldo brought the Bulgarians to the brink of qualification after the match had looked over as a contest when Blackburn raced into a three-goal lead inside the first hour of the match.
Thompson hits the target
The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park, and a tight contest was expected in Sofia yet there were early chances at both ends. For CSKA Todor Yanchev shot narrowly wide in the eighth minute, while David Thompson's swerving free-kick sailed narrowly over Stoyan Petrov's goal shortly afterwards. Thompson was not going to miss his second chance on the half hour when he chested the ball down before beating Petrov from 30 metres.
Blackburn had the ball in the net for a second time shortly after the break but Andy Cole's header was disallowed for a push on Petrov. However, Egil Østenstad tapped in from five metres following Cole's pass on 56 minutes and the visitors added their third goal a minute later, when Irish international Damien Duff shot in off the far post after letting fly from the left edge of the area.
CSKA coach Stoytcho Mladenov reacted by substituting MacDonald Mukasi and Brito for Bulgarian Under-21 international captain Gargorov and Agnaldo. The changes paid quick dividends, as the diminutive Gargorov headed home a Svetoslav Petrov cross from the right on 66 minutes. Five minutes later, Gargorov turned provider as he crossed for Agnaldo to score an almost identical goal.
Blackburn missed the chance to finish off CSKA five minutes from time, when Duff, David Dunn and Cole bore down on goalkeeper Stoyan Petrov. However, the trio dallied long enough for defender Svetoslav Petrov to rush back and clear the ball off the line. CSKA then equalised in the final minute when Gargorov fired home from the spot after Velizar Dimitrov was fouled in the penalty area by Lucas Neill. With feelings running high, Dimitrov was sent off in injury time.