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Joy for Ludogorets after Moţi heroics

PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 1-0 FC Steaua Bucureşti (agg: 1-1, Ludogorets win 6-5 on penalties)
Defender Cosmin Moţi saved two penalties during a remarkable shoot-out to put the hosts into the group stage for the first time.

Ludogorets salute their supporters at full time
Ludogorets salute their supporters at full time ©Meridian Match

• Defender Cosmin Moţi saves two penalties to earn PFC Ludogorets Razgrad win
• Former FC Dinamo Bucureşti man forced into goal after Vladislav Stoyanov red card
• Moţi denies Cornel Râpă and Paul Pîrvulescu to secure sudden-death success
• Wanderson's stunning 90th-minute volley takes tie into extra time
• Bulgarian champions into group stage for first time 

Central defender Cosmin Moţi ensured his place in Ludogorets history by saving twice during a penalty shoot-out to put the club into the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time with a play-off win over FC Steaua Bucureşti. Wanderson's volley had taken the tie to extra time, and Stoyanov's dismissal a minute from the end allowed the man who used to play for Steaua's big rivals Dinamo to become an unlikely hero. 

A goal up from the first leg, Romanian title holders Steaua looked determined to stretch their advantage in Sofia and squandered an excellent opening seven minutes in, Lucian Sânmărtean's cross from the left finding the unmarked Claudiu Keșerü who poked wide. A whipped Keșerü free-kick from the left zipped over the bar as the visitors continued to make chances, something Sânmărtean did for himself with a dazzling dribble only to blast wide of the top corner.

The hosts came out of their shell as the half progressed; Fábio Espinho's free-kick required visiting keeper Giedrius Arlauskis to make a plunging save to his left before Virgil Misidjan was centimetres away from applying a finish to Mihail Aleksandrov's centre shortly before the interval.

Wanderson (No18) after his late strike
Wanderson (No18) after his late strike©Meridian Match

Łukasz Szukała almost put the game beyond the Bulgarian champions after the restart, rising highest to meet a free-kick only to see his header turned against the post by Stoyanov. Time appeared to be running out until the 90th minute when Wanderson connected perfectly with a volley from the edge of the area following a cleared corner to force extra time with a wonderful goal.

Moţi's header in the first period was not far off for Ludogorets but their prospects dimmed considerably a minute from the end when keeper Stoyanov received a red card for bringing down Fernando Varela. With all home substitutions used, Moţi had to pick up the gloves for the shoot-out.

Nervelessly, he himself took the first spot kick, comfortably stroking into the corner, before denying Pîrvulescu with a brilliant stop to keep things level after Wanderson's miss. As the efforts continued to find the corner, the drama continued into sudden death where Moţi capped a remarkable night by throwing himself to his right to repel Râpă's attempted conversion.

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