By Stoyan Georgiev at Bulgarska Armia stadium
FC Steaua Bucuresti withstood a late rally from hosts PFC CSKA Sofia to reach the UEFA Cup group stage 4-3 on aggregate after a draw in Bulgaria tonight.
Steaua took command of the game early on and soon extended the 2-1 advantage they held from the first leg. In the 14th minute CSKA captain Todor Yanchev conceded a free-kick in midfield, and Steaua worked the ball forward quickly to set up Daniel Oprita, who gave home side's goalkeeper Ivailo Ivanov no chance with a fine header.
CSKA had a chance to get back in the tie after 31 minutes but Velizar Dimitrov struck the post with a penalty. Within three minutes Steaua had doubled their lead on the night and extended their aggregate advantage to 4-1. A quick counterattack ended with Sorin Paraschiv scoring with a fine angled finish.
That effectively killed off the tie but CSKA refused to be swept aside and pulled a goal back on the stroke of half-time, when Stoiko Sakaliev scored the goal of the game with a ferocious volley that crashed in off the crossbar.
Buoyed by that strike, CSKA pushed continually for a second, but, led by the experienced Dorinel Munteanu, Steaua managed to absorb the pressure while keeping CSKA on their toes with several dangerous counterattacks.
However, the home side finally managed to level the score on the night after 76 minutes thanks to some predatory finishing from Emil Gargorov. The goal set the stage for a frantic finale, and Steaua goalkeeper Vasili Khomutovski came to his team's rescue with a superb point-blank save from Sakaliev in the 80th minute as the 1985/86 European champions survived to enter Tuesday's draw.