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Ludogorets hold their nerve to upset Lazio

SS Lazio 0-1 PFC Ludogorets Razgrad 
A fine goal from Roman Bezjak settled a dramatic contest in Rome containing two red cards and as many spurned penalties.

Roman Bezjak receives the adulation of his team-mates
Roman Bezjak receives the adulation of his team-mates ©AFP/Getty Images

Both teams finished with ten men as PFC Ludogorets Razgrad consigned SS Lazio to a 1-0 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first-leg loss in Rome.

Ludogorets skipper Svetoslav Dyakov set the tone for an absorbing contest when he chipped a spot kick straight at Etrit Berisha, before Roman Bezjak spared his blushes with a virtuoso effort. The drama continued after the interval as Dyakov and Luis Cavanda were dismissed following another penalty miss by Lazio's Felipe Anderson. Ludogorets then had to endure a torturous last few minutes before their victory was confirmed.

The visitors could scarcely have wished for a better start after Lazio midfielder Lorik Cana was adjudged to have handled Mihail Aleksandrov's cross inside the area. Buoyancy turned to despondency, however, as Dyakov failed to disguise his Panenka-style conversion, allowing Berisha time to get to his feet and cradle the ball.

The Bulgarian title holders regained their composure ten minutes before the break when Marcelinho's speculative 30-metre drive bounced back off the crossbar. The goal Stoicho Stoev's side had been threatening arrived soon after, though, as Bezjak sent a venomous 30-metre strike swerving beyond the outstretched fingertips of Berisha.

On the back foot for long stretches, Lazio emerged rejuvenated in the second period, with Anderson becoming the second player to be denied by the frame of the goal. The effervescent midfielder was then given a chance to redeem himself from the spot, but his firm right-footed attempt was repelled by Vladislav Stoyanov.

A breathless climax ensued with Lazio's Cavanda receiving his marching orders for a late tackle on Yordan Minev – Dyakov having walked earlier for a second yellow card. Unperturbed, the hosts refused to lie down, but knew their luck was up when Antonio Candreva volleyed Miroslav Klose's centre towards goal only for Tero Mäntylä to clear off the line.

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