Bulgaria makes winning start to Euro 2016 qualifying campaign

A late goal from substitute Ventsislav Hristov gave Bulgaria a 2-1 win away against Azerbaijan in its first qualifying match for the 2016 European football championship.

Missing key players both in defence and attack, Bulgaria started the game slowly and the hosts had the better chances to score early on, but it was Ilian Mitsantski that gave Bulgaria the lead in the 13th minute after a quick counterattack.

Despite the occasional defensive lapse, Bulgaria managed to frustrate Azerbaijan’s attempts in attack, but the visitors showed little promise going forward themselves. After the break, the match proceeded along the same lines, only for Azerbaijan to equalise with a 30-metre strike that Bulgaria’s goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov should have done better to keep out.

With the score tied again, both teams surged forward looking for the winning goal, with Bulgaria having the clearer chances but unable to convert. In the end, the goal came from two of Bulgaria’s substitutes in the 87th minute – a corner kick from Todor Nedelev bounced in the goal area, with several Azeri players failing to clear, leaving Hristov with an easy header into the empty net.

After the match, Bulgaria’s head coach Lyubo Penev said he was happy with the result.

“There was some tension, the first match [of the qualifying campaign] is important and we were chasing a win,” he said. “I think we played well and controlled the match, but several times we had lapses in concentration and lost the ball, which gave [Azerbaijan] their goal opportunities.”

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(Photo: juan carlos arellano/sxc.hu)