Žilina hearts aflutter after Athletic marvel

"Only great teams score goals in final seconds," beamed Jakub Paur after Žilina completed an extraordinary comeback win against Athletic Club at the death.

Žilina soak in the applause after their comeback success against Athletic
Žilina soak in the applause after their comeback success against Athletic ©SITA/Milo Fabian

"They are only human," startled Žilina goalscorer Jakub Paur after the Slovakian side came from 2-0 down to secure a 3-2 UEFA Europa League play-off win against Athletic Club.

In one of the most sensational comebacks of a night of drama, Adrián Guľa's side picked themselves up after going 2-0 down at home to Ernesto Valverde's men. Paur's 66th-minute goal sparked the revival, with Brazilian William making it 2-2 and then getting the final touch following a last-gasp corner, with Carlos Gurpegi – the defender on the goalline – unable to stop the ball from trundling into the net.

"What a great night for Žilina," said midfielder Paur. "We achieved an amazing result in front of a great crowd. We played well in the second half. The coach told us we should not be afraid to play football against Athletic. They are only human. The emotions we are experiencing now are enormous. You do not beat a side like them every day."

Last season's Slovkian league runners-up, Žilina scrambled through to the play-offs on away goals, a 3-1 defeat following a 2-0 home success against Ukrainian side Vorslka Poltava. For the 23-year-old Paur, European football is providing thrills aplenty. "These two nights – the one in Poltava, and tonight against Bilbao - are the most memorable nights of my football career," he said. "Only great teams score goals in final seconds. We did it in Poltava and we did it again today."

William (No10) scrambles the winner over the line
William (No10) scrambles the winner over the line©SITA/Milo Fabian

Defender Milan Škriniar felt similarly giddy. "It was a fantastic match, in front of a full stadium – I have never experienced an atmosphere like this in my life," he said. "It was probably the most difficult match I have played in. We started well then conceded twice; the first one was brilliant, the second after our stupid mistake. We are very happy at the moment. There is no logic in football. We will go into the second leg with confidence. We will fight our lives."