Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beroe faced Athletic Bilbao in the 1/8 finals and eliminated them too. It was a surprise, but the Bulgarian team clearly outplayed the Basques. Those were the best years of Beroe and may be their best team ever. Just a year ago they qualified for the UEFA Cup and had successful run there, eliminating Austria Vienna and Honved Budapest, before losing to OFK Beograd. They reached the final for the Bulgarian Cup and lost it, but since they lost to CSKA, the champions of the year, they qualified for the Cup Winners Cup and so far were doing great. It was neat and balanced squad, featuring a bunch of well respected players, few of whom eventually played for the national team.
Petko Petkov tries a bicycle kick and almost scores here. The all-time best player of Beroe scored a total of 144 goals for the club. He was twice top Bulgarian goalscorer – in 1974 and 1976. At his wedding day he played official match and scored 5 goals. The first Bulgarian allowed to play professionally abroad.
Unquestionably, the best one was their centre forward Petko Petkov – a goal scoring machine, who never moved to a big Bulgarian club, but by the end of the decade became the first Bulgarian player allowed to play abroad (in Austria Vienna). Beroe was coached by Christo Mladenov, who was appointed national team coach for the World Cup 1974. After eliminating Bilbao, the future look bright – the East German 1.FC Magdeburg was the next opponent, considered much weaker club than Bilbao. Or so was the opinion in Bulgaria… it was exactly the opposite in DDR, and rightly so. After winning 2-0 at home and preserving 1-1 tie in Stara Zagora, the East Germans went to the ½ finals. Since the Cup Winners Cup already was considered the weakest European tournament, nobody paid much attention to the likes of Beroe and Magdeburg: Glentoran (Northern Ireland), PAOK (Greece), and FC Zurich (Switzerland) also reached ¼ finals. The ‘real truth’ was to be seen in the semi-finals… where freak chance paired Milan and Borussia Monchengladbach. Magdeburg had lesser opponent – Sporting Lisbon. Milan won their home match 2-0, lost 0-1 in Monchengladbach and went to the final. The East Germans sweated 1-1 tie in Portugal and barely won the second leg 2-1. Not exactly dominant, not great, rather lucky finalists… at least that was how it looked like. Lucky… Ultra-defensive Milan eliminates Borussia and after that the final should have been just a formality.