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Slick Žilina make Lovech pay

MŠK Žilina 3-1 PFC Litex Lovech (agg: 4-2)
The Slovakian champions deservedly booked a place in Friday's draw but it was not until Ivelin Popov's dismissal that the tie swung in their favour.

Tomáš Oravec (No14) celebrates after putting Žilina 2-1 up
Tomáš Oravec (No14) celebrates after putting Žilina 2-1 up ©Ján Mintál

Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina booked their place in Friday's play-off draw as PFC Litex Lovech were left to rue an untimely dismissal.

The Gods did not appear to be on Žilina's side when, having dominated proceedings and missed a penalty through Róbert Jež, they fell behind just after half-time. Yet within three minutes the tie had been turned on its head. Emil Rilke restored parity, making it 2-2 on aggregate, and visiting captain Ivelin Popov received a second yellow card. From then on there was only ever one winner, goals from Tomáš Oravec and the excellent Momodou Ceesay taking the hosts through.

Ceesay had been a threat all evening. His fantastic run earned Jež's spot-kick opportunity midway through the first half and the towering striker went close himself with a wonderful header soon after. Rodrigo Galatto denied Mário Pečalka in between but five minutes after the interval Žilina were behind as Sandrinho caught them out with an unstoppable long-range effort.

That was as good as it got for Litex, however, as two minutes later Rilke converted a low cross from Mário Pečalka and when Popov departed, he took with him Bulgaria's UEFA Champions League hopes. Oravec put Žilina ahead 20 minutes from time, capitalising on the rebound after Ceesay's blocked shot fell kindly to him and the Gambian striker capped his fine performance with the goal he deserved late on, latching on to Issiaka Bello's pass and firing in.