By John Leonidou
An equaliser from substitute Amiran Mujiri 13 minutes from time gave PFC CSKA Sofia the edge in their UEFA Cup second qualifying round first-leg visit to Cypriot team AC Omonia.
The home side were largely on top in front of 13,000 spectators in Nicosia, but had only Jozef Kozlej's 57th-minute goal to show for their pressure, and Mujiri capitalised on uncertainty in the home defence to rescue a draw which leaves the Bulgarian side well-placed to progress when the second leg takes place on 26 August.
Omonia on top
On a hot and humid evening, CSKA were made to work hard as they resisted a series of Omonia attacks early in the game that might have seen the home team go in front. Kozlej headed a Lubija Kekic cross centimetres wide inside the very first minute and the hosts maintained the pressure on the CSKA defence, Efstathios Aloneftis and Antonis Makris both looking particularly dangerous.
It was not all one-way traffic, however, with El Hadji Manou Ayanda and Stoyko Sakaliev both going close on the counterattack. Goalless at half-time, the second period began at a frantic pace as three chances went begging in the space of a minute. First Omonia's Kekic saw his effort cleared off the line by Evgeni Iordanov, then Mujiri broke the offside trap only to shoot wide for CSKA before Kekic volleyed wide at the other end, all in the 52nd minute.
Five minutes later Omonia did eventually break the deadlock as a fine shot from Makris was blocked by CSKA goalkeeper Ivailo Ivanov and the rebound fell perfectly at the feet of Slovakian striker Kozlej, who prodded the ball into an empty net.
CSKA responded well, upping the pressure and might have equalised on 75 minutes but substitute Hristo Yanev fired wide with the goal gaping. It was 1-1 minutes later, however, as a great run by Kostadin Hazurov was only partially cleared by Omonia defender Petros Konnafis and Mujiri picked up the ball and slammed the equaliser beyond Omonia goalkeeper Adam Vezer.
Another substitute, Omonia's Georgios Nicolaov, might have restored the home side's advantage in the closing minutes, but he missed the chance and the Bulgarian side held on.