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Ludogorets break new ground with Slovan success

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 3-0 ŠK Slovan Bratislava (agg: 4-2)
Dani Abalo struck twice as the Bulgarian champions – under a brand-new coach – reached the third qualifying round for the first time.

Ludogorets supporters saw their team reach the third qualifying round for the first time
Ludogorets supporters saw their team reach the third qualifying round for the first time ©Getty Images

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad defeated ŠK Slovan Bratislava 3-0 to break new ground and reach the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round for the first time in their history.

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg and still reeling from the weekend departure of coach Ivaylo Petev, Ludogorets had a task that looked anything but simple. But Ivan Stoyanov's early goal wiped out the deficit, and Dani Abalo hit two more as the confident hosts swept aside their experienced opponents 4-1 on aggregate, providing the perfect start for new coach Stoicho Stoev.

Stoyanov's third-minute strike was as impressive as it was important, perhaps unsurprisingly for a nephew of ex-Bulgaria international Yordan Lechkov. Júnior Caiçara put in a fine cross from the right wing and Stoyanov did the rest, scoring with a great left-footed volley.

With home nerves now settled, a second goal was not far away. Moments after missing a one-on-one, Abalo made amends with a cool finish from a carbon-copy chance after another superb Júnior Caiçara pass.

Ludogorets dominated proceedings from then on. Stoyanov's looping effort came back off the crossbar, and Slovan goalkeeper Matúš Putnocký twice frustrated Marcelinho before the Bulgarians' third goal eventually arrived 12 minutes from time.

Substitute Dimo Bakalov slipped Abalo beyond the defence and the Spaniard made no mistake with another clinical finish to extinguish any trace of doubt and set up a third-round meeting with either FC Shirak or FK Partizan.

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