Bulgaria's South-East Region AMA have reached the UEFA Regions' Cup finals after winning the Group 7 mini-tournament on home soil by the slenderest of margins.
Bulgaria's South-East Region AMA have reached the UEFA Regions' Cup after winning Group 7 on home soil by the slenderest of margins.
Only goal difference lifted the Bulgarian side above Oltenia AMA after they drew 1-1 with the team from neighbouring Romania in Teteven on the final day of the mini-tournament with the two sides having won both of their previous games against Greek side Eastern Attica AMA and San Marino AMA.
Valchev Asen opened the scoring for South-East Region after 28 minutes but they were pegged back six minutes later as Oltenia captain Costica Relu Dita scored his third goal of the tournament. He leaves Bulgaria with the scant consolation of having been Group 7's top scorer.
Valchev scored South-East Region's only goal in their opening game, a 1-0 win against San Marino in front of 1,000 fans, while Oltenia earned a dramatic 3-2 win against Eastern Attica thanks to a late penalty from Dita. Christos Kodogiannis had put the Greek side ahead after 44 minutes, but substitute Cristina Ionita Jenaru levelled early in the second half.
Dita then set up Alexandru Mirei Sarbu to put Oltenia ahead after 67 minutes but Eastern Attica thought they had earned themselves a point five minutes from time as Oltenia goalkeeper Alin Marius Barbu was adjudged to have saved a header from Panagiotis Koulibis behind the line. However, having been taken down in the area to win the spot-kick, Dita was to have the last word.
He scored again in Oltenia's second match, a 3-1 win against San Marino, adding to a double from Catalin Zaharia after Elton Shabani had given the Sammarinese a 21st minute lead. San Marino's Nicola Canarezza was sent off just before half-time with the scores level at 1-1.
Meanwhile, South-East Region hit top gear against Eastern Attica, with goals from Petar Petkov and substitute Toshko Hristov either side of a Krasimir Stoyanov penalty earning them a 3-0 win. The Greek side ended the match with nine men after Nikolaos Karatsikos and Kodogiannis were dismissed.
That set things up for a tense final day, but with a goal from Eftichis Tsiviloglou and two from Alexandros Kalogeris seeing Eastern Attica close their account with a 3-0 win against San Marino in Prevetz, South-East Region's +4 goal difference was to see them outstrip Oltenia by just one goal.
"Our team qualified thanks to a joint effort and the unity of the team," said South-East Region coach Anguel Stankov. "These factors helped us overcome one of the best amateur teams in Europe, namely Romania, who are a good side. Winning on home soil just made it extremely special for us."