Amazing scenes out of Bulgaria tonight where Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti took the gloves as a makeshift goalkeeper and saved two penalties by Steaua Bucharest to help his side advance to the Champions League group stage.
Entering the match with the upper hand after a 1-0 victory in the first leg in Bucharest, Steaua appeared to be cruising until a 90th minute wonder goal from Wanderson forced extra-time for Ludogorets. Then, in the 119th minute, Ludogorets goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was shown his second yellow card of the match and with no substitutions remaining, Moti was forced between the sticks.
After punching away a late cross to ensure penalties, Moti went on to save penalties from Paul Pirvulescu and Cornel Rapa to hand Ludogorets a sensational 6-5 penalty shootout victory. In yet another amazing twist, it turns out that Moti played for Steaua’s arch-rivals, FC Dinamo Bucuresti, for seven years before joining Ludogorets. Thanks to his dramatics, the Bulgarian side are through to the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in club history.
Elsewhere across Europe…
Arsenal 1 Besiktas 0 (Aggregate: 1-0)
Arsenal reached the Champions League group stage for 17th successive season thanks to a 45th minute strike from new boy Alexis Sanchez. Things grew dicey for the Gunners in the 76th minute when full-back Mathieu Debuchy was sent off but Arsenal held their ground to confirm advancement.
Malmo 3 Salzburg 0 (Aggregate: 4-2)
Malmo became the first Swedish club to make it through to the Champions League group stage since Helsingborgs IF in 2000 when they defeated Salzburg 3-0. Markus Rosenberg notched a brace and Magnus Eriksson vollied home to hand Malmo the 4-2 win on aggregate. The victory caps a strong run of form for the Swedish side having not lost or conceded a goal in their last seven European home matches.
Bayer Leverkusen 4 Copenhagen 0 (Aggregate: 7-2)
Stefan Kiessling scored a brace and Son Heung-Min and Hakan Calhanoglu also made the scoresheet as Leverkusen cruised to a 4-0 home victory over Copenhagen. The shutout puts Leverkusen through to the group stage draw and sends Copenhagen tumbling into the Europa League.
Athletic Bilbao 3 Napoli 1 (Aggregate: 4-2)
Three goals in a 13 minute span earned Athletic Bilbao a 3-1 victory over Napoli at the new San Mames, sending the Basque club through to the group stage, 4-2 on aggregate. Marek Hamsik handed Napoli a lead with his 47th minute goal but goals from Aritz Aduriz in the 61st and 69th minutes followed by a 74th minute effort from Ibai Gomez confirmed Athletic’s spot in the Champions League.