Bulgaria coach Luboslav Penev hailed the improving performances of his side this year following their 2-2 draw against Italy in Group B of FIFA World Cup qualifying.
The home side took the lead in Sofia thanks to Stanislav Manolev's stike after half an hour, but Italy responded with two quick goals by Pablo Osvaldo before-half time. However, emerging talent Georgi Milanov scored midway the second half to give Bulgaria a deserved draw.
"I can only be proud of our performance, but I am not satisfied with the result," said Penev. "I think we were the better side and deserved the win. Italy scored two rather lucky goals, especially the second one. We created so many chances against an excellent team like Italy, who reached the UEFA EURO 2012 final just two months ago. We are still missing that killer instinct in the penalty area."
Bulgaria have enjoyed a steady period of improvement since Penev succeeded Lothar Matthäus in late 2011, most notably triumphing away to the Netherlands in a friendly earlier this year. For the former Bulgarian international, though, there is still plenty of work to do. "Nothing happens in just three or four months," he said. "We need more time and more training sessions.
"This is just one good game and we have not done anything special. Of course, this is a positive start. I always want to win and I have done throughout my career. I am happy we showed some character and fought back after the break. Let's hope we continue to improve in our next game against Armenia on Tuesday."
Milanov was equally happy with the team's performance and hopes the result will bring a smile back to the fans' faces. "It is a shame we conceded two goals in such a way, but that is part of the game," said the 20-year-old PFC Litex Lovech midfielder. "We should work even harder to bring the fans back to the stadium and make them happy. They gave us great support during the game and we will be happy if they come on Tuesday to help us again."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, meanwhile, acknowledged his side were surprised by the home side. "I did not expect such a Bulgaria," he said. "We should have played more aggressively. We moved the ball well, but we lacked rhythm. I am not disappointed with the result but I knew the game would be very difficult. Bulgaria showed great team spirit."
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