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UEFA Europa League
March 13, 2014
• 2:00 PM
• Stadion Vasil Levski, Sofia
Referee: C. Turpin
• Attendance: 41085
F. Cartabia 33'
P. Senderos 59'
That's all we have time for, I hope you enjoyed our live coverage of Valencia's impressive 3-0 victory in the Europa League over Ludogorets, I've been Simon Harrison, and I hope to see you again next time!
Bezjak just wasn't at the races for his side, as he missed a penalty, before the hosts also hit the woodwork. Plenty of chances for Ludogorets, but they just couldn't find the cutting edge required, much to Stoev's frustration. Valencia had no such issues, taking their chances wonderfully.
FULL TIME! Valencia take a commanding victory into the second leg, with a 3-0 victory over Ludogorets. Goals from Barragan, Cartabia and Senderos were enough for Los Che, despite Keita being sent off in the 24th minute. The hosts had their chances, but face a stern test at the Mestalla now.
90' + 4'
Marcelinho is brought down deep into the Valencia half by Javi Fuego, but the hosts choose to take the set piece short. That should be the last chance for the home side.
90' + 2'
Stoev is not happy whatsoever, shouting and bawling in his technical area, after a terrible ball forward from Michel Platini - not the former France international, either. They've just had no luck this evening, they've had the chances, they just cannot convert. Even if they played for 24 hours, I don't think the home crowd would have had anything to cheer about.
VARGAS! SO NEARLY FOUR! Caicara makes an important block, as the Chilean looked to sidefoot home yet another Valencia goal. Feghouli broke well, to provide the opportunity. Ludogorets try their luck from range yet again, but it's well wide. There are four minutes of stoppage time.
JONAS! The substitute is released by Vargas, but his cross is poor, with an intervention made easily. Feghouli receives the ball moments later, arrowing a shot towards the inside of the far post, but Stoyanov is on hand to palm the effort behind.
Federico Nicolás Cartabia
Marcelinho runs out of options once again, due to a lack of runners, opting to take a long-range shot. I'm not quite sure how he manages to keep outdoing himself, but his strikes keep getting worse and worse. Diego Alves has been a mere spectator whenever the Brazilian has tried his luck.
Valencia continue to look solid, and there seems to be no way through for Ludogorets. Caicara marauds forward from right-back yet again, but Bernet matches his marker all of the way, before blocking the cross. Pizzi readies Jonas to be thrown into the fray, there are a lot of Brazilians involved tonight!
Cheeky piece of trickery in the Ludogorets penalty area, as a defender opts to try fake a clearance and perform a Cruyff turn to escape the challenge of a pressing Valencia player. It comes off too, before the ball is eventually cleared upfield. Valencia are now in control, and are happy to hold onto the ball.
Well, if Ludogorets had any chance of getting back into this tie, it was when they had 11 men. That advantage has now evaporated, leaving Stoev's side will plenty to do in Spain. Aleksandrov is fed through on goal again by a clever ball, but his touch lets him down yet again, allowing for the through ball to roll through to Diego Alves.
Red Card Juninho Quixadá
RED CARD! JUNINHO SEES RED! The substitutes has let his side down there, by deliberately kicking out at Pereira, who had beaten the Brazilian to the ball. The referee didn't have any choice there, it was a malicious kick or slight stamp, despite limited contact, that's ridiculous from Juninho.
Just over ten minutes left to play, and Valencia are looking to be making their way towards the perfect away performance. They may have rode their luck in the first half, but in the second, Diego Alves has been rarely exposed and they've picked their moments to break well.
MARCELINHO! The Brazilian cannons another effort miles wide of the target, as Ludogorets seem intent on seeing how many opportunities they can miss. Cartabia drives into the penalty area for Valencia, but Terziev muscles the goalscorer off the ball and to the ground - fairly, in the referee's opinion.
Comfortable save for Diego Alves! Dyakov has a pocket of space at the edge of the box, and can only bobble a low drive within the grasp of the Brazilian from 20 yards. The hosts' frustration continues.
OFFSIDE! Eduardo Vargas is slipped through on goal by Feghouli, but the linesman has his flag raised, as the former Gremio forward couldn't stay in line. Ludogorets break down the right hand side yet again, but Aleksandrov blasts yet another harmless effort wide of the target. Wasteful.
Important header from Mathieu! Valencia are very deep now, but the visitors are easily able to absorb this pressure. The hosts can play from side to side with ease, but as soon as the ball is pumped into the area, it's always a Valencia player who gets there first.
Vargas flicks on a long ball well, looking to head Cartabia through on goal, but the goalscorer fails to get on the end of the link-up. Ludogorets break down the other end, but Diego Alves is able to easily claim a bobbling effort from Juninho.
Yellow Card Jordan Minev
Vargas is looking more and more isolated at the fore of the Valencia attack, as the rest of Pizzi's men look to face up Ludogorets and make themselves hard to play through. Bezjak tries an audacious effort, with a strange, acrobatic overhead kick, but Diego Alves is happy to watch the ball loop over his crossbar.
Bezjak continues to be wholly anonymous at the head of Ludogorets' attack, and it's looking unlikely that the hosts can find a goal. They're beginning to bash their hands against a wall now, holding onto plenty of the ball, but being frustrated by Valencia's deep banks four.
Barragan is replaced by Feghouli, and the Algerian midfielder has been a real talisman for Valencia's resurgence under Pizzi. He'll provide drive and an eye for goal from midfield, which could provide even more frustration for the home fans, should Valencia break away and score yet again.
Stoev is certainly trying to get his side a couple of goals, with the recent change of Mantyla for Juninho clearly showing attacking intent. If the Bulgarian minnows head to the Mestalla with a three goal deficit, they're really not going to find the goals required to progress.
We have under half an hour left to play, and Ludogorets really need to find a goal from somewhere. Dyakov blasts a firm effort towards goal, after picking up Mathieu's loose header, but it's deflected behind for a corner due to committed defending. Close, but no cigar.
Yellow Card Fábio Espinho
Well, this game isn't going according to Ludogorets' plan! The hosts break forward, with Aleksandrov fed through on goal, but Diego Alves is able to race out and mop up the loose ball. Despite all of their possession and chances, Stoev's men are looking to be out of this tie before they even step on the plane to Spain.
Assist Edu Vargas
Goal Philippe Senderos
GOOOOOOAL! SENDEROS MAKES IT 3-0 TO VALENCIA! The former Fulham defender scores his first goal for Los Che, due to terrible defending from the hosts! Vargas nods a corner delivery back across the face of goal, allowing for Senderos to flick the ball beyond Stoyanov from close range!
It's a somewhat negative change from Los Che, as Victor Ruiz takes to the field, but it's no less than would be expected from a side who is trying to hang onto a lead with merely ten men. Paco Alcacer is the man sacrificed.
More changes being prepared off the field, as both managers have very different agendas. Pizzi will be looking to shore up his midfielder and prevent Ludogorets being encouraged by finding a first goal, while Stoev is desperately looking to find inroads into this resilient La Liga outfit.
MARCELINHO! Ludogorets break brilliantly, with Vura driving down the right flank skilfully, before setting back a pass to his Brazilian teammate on the edge of the box. Marcelinho obliges, firing a first-time effort toward goal, but it's deflected behind due to heavy pressure. Nothing comes of the set piece.
ALEKSANDROV! Dyakov clips a great ball over the Valencia defensive line, but the right midfielder couldn't quite connect with the ball as the Bulgarian was under heavy pressure. The away side continue to look comfortable, despite Ludogorets seeing plenty of the ball.
Yellow Card Barragán
Barragan is booked for asking the referee to book Bezjak for a foul on Javi Fuego, something that we don't often see from officials. There won't be too many people disagreeing with that decision, minus those connected to Valencia, as the referee should be permitted to do his own job.
Well, that corner delivery from Vura has just summed up the Dutchman's performance thus far. He curls the ball out of play on the far side with his attempt cross, and the home crowd are audibly getting a little bit restless, they were expecting more of a potent showing from Ludogorets.
Terziev, the second half substitute for Ludogorets, is the captain of Bulgaria's U21 side, meaning that the replacement defender can slot in for Barthe efficiently. Bernat makes a very important block in the early stages, as a close-range rocket cannons into the Spaniard, as Dyakov really got behind that!
Georgi Ilkov Terziev
We're back underway for the second half! Ludogorets have got a task on their hands, with their unbeaten record in the Europa League being at risk, following an opening 45 minutes where they conceded twice with no reply. Valencia are down to ten men, however, meaning that there's every chance of the home side mounting a resurgence. Terziev replaces Barthe for the hosts.
We'll be back in ten minutes to provide all of the second half action in Sofia, as Ludogorets attempt to claw their way back into this tie before their trip to the Mestalla. They've put in a good performance, minus their lack of cutting edge, meaning that a prolific second half could be around the corner with a couple of tweaks and a bit of luck.
Goals from Barragan and Cartabia, both of which were wonderful finishes, hand Pizzi's side a wonderful first-half lead, in a rather uneasy Bulgarian national team stadium. Dangerman Bezjak hasn't been at his best for the hosts, with Marcelinho and Vura providing all of the threats.
HALF TIME! Somehow, at the break, it's 2-0 to Valencia, with the visitors certainly riding their luck here tonight in Sofia. Ludogorets have seen plenty of the ball, as well as missing a penalty and striking the post, but Los Che have managed to extend their advantage since Keita's dismissal.
45' + 3'
Another half chance for Bezjak! Junior Caicara overlaps on the right hand side yet again, whipping in a great ball to the near post, but the Slovanian can't turn his header towards goal! Pereira is on hand at the back post to hoof the ball clear.
45' + 1'
BEZJAK! Well, that's high and wide, and certainly not very handsome. Ludogorets top scorer balloons another effort wide of the target, with his penalty miss remaining as his only notable contribution to this match. Given his track record, and 17 goals in all competitions this season, Los Che will be beginning to wonder why they feared facing the Slovenian.
There are three minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half, with the home fans desperately urging their side forward.
VARGAS! The Chilean striker manages to crane his neck to direct a weak header towards goal, which bounces off the turf before Stoyanov claims. The home side break up the other end, with Marcelinho firing a near post effort towards goal, but Diego Alves is equal to it, despite Bezjak and Aleksandrov taking up good positions in the penalty area.
Junior Caicara is taken off the field after picking up a knock, and the Brazilian defender is trying to battle on. He's been a great outlet down the right for Ludogorets, and if he was to be withdrawn, it would be wholly detrimental to the hosts' attempted comeback.
What an awful attempt from Vura! The Dutchman manages to get in behind Pereira after playing a one-two with Bezjak, but balloons his eventual effort high and wide! He was merely ten yards from goal, but snatched at his effort, adding to the hosts' frustrations.
Marcelinho and Vura are causing plenty of problems for Valencia, embarking on driving runs constantly, but Ludogorets just can't find the cutting edge to find a cross or strike worthy of finding the back of the net. The home crowd are calling for a reply from their beloved side, but Pizzi's men continue to hold their shape well.
VURA! The Dutchman cuts onto his right foot once again, dipping an effort towards the far post, but it almost turns into a cross for the onrushing Junior Caicara. He's been very keen to get forward all game, but can't slide in at the back post to turn home his teammate's effort.
VURA! The Dutchman, otherwise known as Misidjan, curls an effort narrowly over Diego Alves' top left hand corner, he just couldn't keep it down! Pereira failed to clear his lines, and was nearly punished. Plenty of chances, no cutting edge for the hosts.
It just isn't Ludogorets' night! It was a wonderful finish from Cartabia, who fired home with a smart left-footed volley, but the Bulgarian side will feel very hard done by. They've missed a penalty and hit the post, but find themselves two goals behind.
Assist Paco Alcácer
Goal Federico Nicolás Cartabia
GOOOOOOOAL! CARTABIA FIRES INTO THE BOTTOM CORNER AND THE TEN MEN SCORE AGAIN! The midfielder, who has been relocated to the centre of midfield in Keita's absence, has managed to turn a scrappy Valencia move into a goal, steering home from just inside the box after picking up a loose ball! The home fans aren't happy!
Yellow Card Júnior Caiçara
ANOTHER CHANCE FOR LUDOGORETS! IT HITS THE UPRIGHT! Misidjan blasts a ferocious effort across Diego Alves, and it bobbles over the Brazilian goalkeeper and hits the foot of the post! The ball springs away, bouncing across the open goal, but nobody is on hand in a green shirt to turn it home. Unlucky!
MARCELINHO! The 2013 Bulgarian top flight Player of the Year fires another effort towards goal, but arrows it narrowly over the crossbar from just inside the penalty area. Diego Alves is happy to allow that one to rise, but Ludogorets are threatening.
Marcelinho! The Brazilian tries to take a touch, before unleashing an effort at goal from 20 yards out, but the Ludogorets forward is beaten to the ball by Barragan. The hosts are looking to be high in confidence following Keita's dismissal, and Valencia have had to leave only one man up front as a result.
Eduardo Vargas is left in a heap, following an elbow to the ribs for the Chilean striker, but he should be fine to continue. This has been a hectic opening half an hour, but not a good spell for Bezjak. He may be Ludogorets' top scorer this season, but the Slovenian striker hasn't looked dangerous thus far.
Missed Penalty Roman Bezjak
GREAT SAVE FROM DIEGO ALVES! The Brazilian pulls the save out of the bag, sprawling to his right hand side to palm away Bezjak's penalty effort! Valencia may be a man down, but they're still a goal ahead! What drama!
Penalty save Diego Alves
There is a long, long, delay, as Keita takes a long while for Keita to leave the field of play. Diego Alves also takes a while to take a drink. The pressure is on...
Red Card Seydou Keita
PENALTY TO LUDOGORETS! Keita makes a stupid challenge, and is given a straight red card by the referee! Pizza and the Mali international cannot believe it! Bezjak was about to fire an effort at goal after good work from Marcelinho, and the former Barcelona midfielder is stunned. He can't believe he's been dismissed, but he did deny Bezjak's strike!
Valencia continue to look unperturbed by the atmosphere, which is almost carnival-like, with the home fans participating in a stadium-wide Mexican wave. This is, of course, Bulgaria's national stadium, Ludogorets aren't playing in their own stadium during European competition to ensure large crowds.
Great pace from Junior Caicara! The Brazilian tears down the right flank, looking to get beyond Mathieu, but the Frenchman is able to capitalise on the right-back taking a poor second tough. Ludogorets win the ball back, with Minev finding himself in possession in an advanced area, but the left-back balloons a long-range strike over the bar.
Valencia continue to give away plenty of free-kicks in the opening twenty minutes, and the referee is more than happy to keeping blowing his whistle and stopping the flow of the game. Ludogorets continue to see more of the ball, but Valencia are comfortable, keeping their shape and pressing well to frustrate the home side.
PACO ALCACER! What a chance for the Spaniard! Cartabia drives down the left, after Junior Caicara is caught in possession after slipping over, before cutting the ball back well. From eight yards out, Alcacer can only head the ball over the crossbar, when it looked easier to hit the target!
Yellow Card João Pereira
Ludogorets certainly aren't out of this game yet, with the Bulgarian side seeing plenty of the ball in the early stages. The referee waves the first yellow card of tonight's proceedings, with Pereira being the victim. Given the majority of the game lies ahead for the Portuguese full-back, that foul could come back to haunt him.
Senderos is on hand to make an important clearance! Aleksandrov drives to the byline, past Mathieu, before pulling a cross back from the byeline, but the Swiss defender is present to hoof the delivery clear.
Half chance for Valencia once again! Paco Alcacer goes down injured, after being caught in the face by Barthe, but the referee isn't interested. The Spanish striker was bursting into the penalty area, but may not have been able to catch up with a heavy touch.
Keita is penalised for a poor tackle in the centre of the park, but Espinho's free-kick is whipped into a dangerous area, but the Malian midfielder atones for his error with a good defensive header. Diego Alves remains untested in the Valencia net.
Half chance for Ludogorets! Misidjan is almost fed in at the back post, but Caicara's ambitious pass bobbles off the turf and behind for a goal kick. The run of the ball isn't great on this Stadion Vasil Levski pitch, and both sides are paying for it.
Aleksandrov cuts inside from the right, but his attempt to spread the play goes harmlessly out for a throw-in, avoiding both Misidjan and Marcelinho. The hosts aren't looking too confident, despite the vociferous support they have present tonight, and Stoev's side need to wake up.
A few poor touches from the home side in the early stages, with the poor condition of the pitch not helping either side. Marcelinho has already been popping up all over the pitch, and nearly clips a wonderful ball in behind Bernat for Aleksandrov to chase, but Diego Alves is quick off his line to claim it.
Ludogorets have previously fallen behind early on in the Europa League, conceding after merely 16 seconds to Lazio in the last round. Aleksandrov manages to whip in the hosts' first corner, finding Marcelinho, but the Brazilian is dispossessed despite a brilliant turn.
Assist Jérémy Mathieu
GOOOOOOOOOAL! WHAT A FINISH FROM BARRAGAN! The visitors are ahead, Vargas' free-kick delivery was poor and half-cleared, but the right-sided midfielder arrows an effort into the bottom left corner from the edge of the box! Great strike, great start for Los Che!
SENDEROS! Valencia go close in the opening four minutes! A free-kick is whipped into the Ludogorets penalty area, and the Swiss defender looked to have risen well to fire a header at goal. Instead, the delivery avoids his large frame, with the ball cannoning off Keita's head and wide of the far post.
Valencia start brightly, holding onto the ball in the early moments, and that's exactly what Pizzi will have wanted to see. No real fear and they're displaying control despite being in a cauldron of hostile noise in Sofia here tonight.
We are underway! It's an intimidating atmosphere, and Valencia certainly are facing a tough test here tonight. Pizzi's newly installed belief and intensity should be enough to see Los Che get a favourable result, and they'll be endevouring to do so in a rather colourful strip of red, yellow and blue. This should be a very unpredictable game, so let's hope for some goals!
Both sides are out on the field, and there's quite an atmosphere here tonight! We're in the national stadium of Bulgaria, and the crowd of 40,000 people are definitely expecting another upset, after previously beating the likes of Lazio and PSV in this competition. Plenty of the pressure will fall on Bezjak's shoulders, though, given that the Ludogorets striker is second-top scorer in the Europa League.
Valencia are unbeaten in seven European matches, while Ludogoretes are one of only six qualifiers who are yet to lose in this season's Europa League. Despite their reputation, Ludogorets are becoming a feared banana skin in this competition, and Pizzi will know that the Bulgarian outfit aren't going to make things easy for his side - though thankfully, the La Liga side are in good form of their own.
Valencia substitutes: Victor Ruiz, Oriol Romeu, Jonas, Feghouli, Guaita, Michel, Jose Gaya.
Valencia starting line-up: Diego Alves; Pereira, Senderos, Mathieu, Juan Bernat; Barragan, Javi Fuego, Keita, Cartabia; Paco Alcacer, Vargas.
Ludogorets substitutes: Juninho Quixada, Dani Abalo, Choco, Terziev, Cvorovic, Michel, Hernandez.
Ludogorets starting line-up: Stoyanov; Junior Caicara, Barthe, Mantyla, Minev; Dyakov, Fabio Espinho; Aleksandrov, Marcelinho, Misidjan; Bezjak.
TEAM NEWS: Sofiane Feghouli is on the bench for the home side, with Pizzi preferring to play more conservatively with the likes of Cartabia and Barragan in wide areas. Seydou Keita starts in the centre of midfield, with Eduardo Vargas taking his place up front, after impressing during Chile's narrow defeat against Germany during the international break. It's a conservative side from Los Che, but one that possesses plenty of intensity and energy.
TEAM NEWS: Top scorer Roman Bezjak starts up front for the home side, with key midfielder Svetoslav Dyakov also being included for the hosts, as Stoev names a very strong starting eleven. There's no room for Spaniard Dani Abalo in the first eleven, but the winger is included amongst the substitutes, having previously plied his trade in Spain with the likes of Celta Vigo. Zlatinski misses out and is replaced by Fabio Espinho, while Barthe is included in defence in place of Moti. A few changes, but this is still a side who haven't experienced defeat since early December.
Tonight represents Ludogorets first encounter with Spanish opposition, following their unlikely qualification from their round of 32 tie with Serie A side Lazio. Though the minnows have only been in the Bulgarian top flight for three years, they've managed to win back-to-back titles since their promotion, and will be looking to add to their golden era tonight. After winning five and drawing one of their group matches, Ludogorets certainly aren't to be taken lightly.
I'm Simon Harrison, and I will be keeping you up to date with all of the action from Sofia, as Stoycho Stoev's men look to get a result on home turf against in-form Valencia. Since the arrival of Juan Antonio Pizzi, Los Che have looked an entirely different side, and carry plenty of momentum into this fixture. Despite the travel across Europe to get here, they remain firm favourites as we edge towards kick-off.
Hello and welcome to live coverage of one of tonight's Europa League knock-out stage clashes, as plucky Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets face the highly reputable Spanish big boys Valencia. After a terrific match against Lazio saw today's hosts navigate their way narrowly to this stage of the competition, all eyes will be on Stadion Vasil Levski, as Europe awaits another big upset.
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