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Beginners' luck lifts Ludogorets

Stoicho Stoev was left a little shaken after his PFC Ludogorets Razgrad side pulled off a huge qualifying win against ŠK Slovan Bratislava just 24 hours after his appointment.

Ivan Stoyanov opened the scoring against Slovan on his 30th birthday
Ivan Stoyanov opened the scoring against Slovan on his 30th birthday ©Getty Images

Stoicho Stoev had an improbably good first day in his new job, with a 3-0 win against ŠK Slovan Bratislava setting PFC Ludogorets Razgrad up for a UEFA Champions League third qualifying round meeting with FK Partizan.

Brought in to replace Ivaylo Petev after a 2-1 first-leg defeat against Slovan and ensuing 1-0 loss to newly promoted Lyubimets 2007 on the first day of the new Bulgarian season prompted his predecessor's departure, the 51-year-old made a flying start on Wednesday night. "Of course, I cannot change a lot in such a short period of time," Stoev said. "I wanted one or two more specific things on the pitch. The players responded well and accepted me.

"When you win 3-0, you cannot feel anything but satisfaction for a job well done," added the Razgrad-born coach, who never played for a local side but made his name as a striker at PFC Lokomotiv Sofia from 1980-89. "There was a lot pressure on the team because of the two defeats last week and the arrival of a new coach. But the players gave their best and I think we deserved to win."

Having coached low-key clubs such as PFC Minior Pernik, PFC Montana 1921, PFC Akademik Svishtov and PFC Chavdar Etropole, Stoev has taken a big step up in joining the champions. "I have been coaching at modest clubs, but I have played the game at the top level," he said. "I hope my career will now move upwards at Ludogorets. It takes years to develop as a coach – some have luck, some don't. We will wait and see how it goes."

Winger Ivan Stoyanov marked his 30th birthday with the opening goal on Wednesday. "This is a really great gift for me – a goal, a win in front of our fans and a place in the next round," he said. "We are now looking forward to facing our next opponents with a newfound optimism. We all hoped for an early goal and thankfully we got it. We missed a lot of chances, but the most important thing is the win."

A nephew of Bulgarian legend Yordan Letchkov, Stoyanov has the added bonus of a meeting with his old PFC CSKA Sofia team-mate Ivan Ivanov – now a defender with Partizan – in the next round. "Ivan Ivanov is a good friend of mine and I do not want him making mistakes against us, but it is very important that we do well – for us and for the good of Bulgarian football," the 12-cap international added.

Stoyanov also paid tribute to departed coach Petev and hoped that this success would be a rallying point as Ludogorets (literal translation: crazy forest) go in search of a third successive league title. "We have seen only good things from Ivaylo Petev and would like to thank him for his excellent work," he explained. "But we have a new start now and we did not play well at the weekend. I hope this win over Slovan will kick-start our season."