Bulgaria have reached the 2006/07 UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs after victory against Croatia in Sofia.
More than 6,000 fans had gathered at the Bulgarska Armia stadium in anticipation of a victory that would guarantee the home team first place in Group 12. Bulgaria had already beaten Ukraine 3-0 last month meaning today's impressive result has rendered the final section fixture between Croatia and Ukraine in Rijeka on Wednesday as academic. The play-offs will be held over two legs on 7/8 and 10/11 October.
The home side took the lead after 53 minutes thanks to Valeri Bozhinov's strike. The Juventus forward, who had appeared as a second-half substitute for Bulgaria's senior side in Saturday's 2-2 draw in Romania, was left unmarked on the edge of the penalty area and made no mistake. Croatia were level five minutes later when Chavdar Yankov upended Bojan Vručina and Mario Brkljača stepped up to score from the spot.
Bozhinov was instrumental in the winner in the 81st minute, his shot being parried by Croatia goalkeeper Danijet Subašic into the path of PFC Litex Lovech's Ivelin Popov who made no mistake. Bulgaria coach Alexander Stankov, celebrating his 42nd birthday, said: "We have done our job. It was really very hard for us. I would like to thank the players. This is the best present. Now we are looking forward to the draw."