By Georgi Dragoev at Gradski stadium
Grazer AK advanced to the group stage of the UEFA Cup, despite a 1-0 first round second-leg defeat at PFC Litex Lovech on Thursday night.
Playing for pride
The Austrian side led 5-0 from the first leg and were never in serious danger of relinquishing that healthy advantage. However, their Bulgarian opponents restored pride with a committed display that deserved more than just the one goal.
Litex were on the offensive right from the start, and came close to taking the lead after just five minutes when Eugen Trica and Joãozinho combined well, but the Brazilian striker put his shot wide of goal.
The home side proceeded to dominate the opening period, with the crossing ability of Kiril Nikolov a feature of the half. One such cross from the left picked out Dimtcho Belyakov after 41 minutes, but he was unable to direct his header on target.
An even better chance went begging after 59 minutes, when Joãozinho brilliantly chested the ball down in the penalty area only to see his subsequent shot rattle off the crossbar. He came close again four minutes later after good work from Mourad Hidiouad, but he was denied by a superb save from Andreas Schranz.
The game's only goal finally came after 67 minutes when Joãozinho met Trica's cross with a powerful header from close range. However, Litex were unable to build on that breakthrough, with Grazer raising their game in the final 20 minutes as they ultimately cruised through to the group stage.