Roman Bezjak's "dream is coming true" after he fired PFC Ludogorets Razgrad to the brink of an unlikely round of 16 spot – and he hopes to haunt SS Lazio again on Thursday.
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PFC Ludogorets Razgrad's fairy-tale UEFA Europa League season continued last Thursday when they beat SS Lazio 1-0 in Rome – and match winner Roman Bezjak does not want the journey to end there.
Having taken Group B by storm, collecting 16 points in a daunting-looking section with PSV Eindhoven, GNK Dinamo Zagreb and FC Chornomorets Odesa, the Bulgarian champions kept up their sensational run courtesy of Bezjak's thunderbolt in the round of 32 first leg – his fifth goal of the continental campaign. Such moments have been a long time coming for the Slovenia forward, who joined Ludogorets in August 2012 after 108 First League appearances for NK Celje in his homeland.
"A decade ago I was playing on the grass in front of my home, wanting to score goals like Raúl González and Ronaldo, or pretending to be Zlatko Zahovič for Slovenia," the 25-year-old told UEFA.com "I played non-stop with my friends and now my dream is coming true. I am really enjoying my football at Ludogorets."
With a prize tie against FC Dynamo Kyiv or Valencia CF waiting in the round of 16, Bezjak is eager to help Stoicho Stoev's men complete the job against the Italian heavyweights. "The 1-0 win in Rome gives us a big advantage – obviously it is a big result – but we still have the second leg. Lazio are a great side, they will come out with all guns blazing, so we need to be at our best again. We expect a hard game, no doubt about it, and we should be totally focused and ready."
His goals – including 16 in 33 Bulgarian A League outings for the title holders and current leaders – may grab the headlines yet the No9 insists Ludogorets would never have got this far without their strong team spirit: "There is a great camaraderie. I score goals but we win as a team." That said, Bezjak is relishing being joint second behind FC Salzburg's Jonatan Soriano in the UEFA Europa League scoring chart. "It is nice when your name is mentioned alongside Jermain Defoe, Yevhen Konoplyanka or Roberto Soldado," he admitted.
If Ludogorets are to carry on progressing in this tournament, Bezjak's lethal finishing will be crucial – though no more so than the northeastern club's loyal followers who will roar them on when Lazio visit the Natsionalen Stadion Vasil Levski in Sofia on Thursday. "Now we have another vital game," he said. "The stadium will be full, and we are happy and proud that so many fans will come to support us. We want to bring them even more joy."