Monday, December 19, 2011

Levski lost the championship, finishing second, but there was still a possibility for at least partial revenge: they met CSKA once again at the Cup final. There was never love between the arch-enemies and matches were more often than not ugly, but the Cup final deteriorated into viscous battle. It was rainy day and the slippery pitch was dangerous anyway, so hard tackles quickly fired short fused spirits. Traditionally CSKA was the first to start brutalities, but Levski did not shy away from retaliation – this season there were plenty of ‘iron legs’ and ‘short tempers’ around: Rangelov, Denev, Vassilev, Kolev, Yankov (CSKA); Grancharov, Milanov, Tishanski (Levski). With the exception of Plamen Yankov and Kiril Milanov, all were on the pitch… which resulted in 6 yellow cards (Goranov, Denev, Sredkov, and Rangelov of CSKA, and Grancharov and Pavlov of Levski).

The referee trying to keep Grancharov (Levski) from fighting with Kolev (CSKA), who just severely fouled Levski’s player. Even a player practically never involved in brutality – Pavel Panov (Levski, with the ball in his hand) – lost his cool. As for Tzonyo Vassilev (CSKA, number 4) – he was never away from a fight… things were so bad, the coaches of both teams stepped in to beg their players to cool down – and Sergy Yotzov (CSKA) and Ivan Vutzov (Levski) had been known as ‘iron legs’ in their playing days, so the battle was really extraordinary to impress such coaches. Ugly match, which ended 2-2 in the regular time – all goals scored in the first half, when Levski quickly built 2-0 lead and CSKA managed to equalize. The drama continued in extra time – Levski scored in the 93th minute, but a minute later CSKA equalized again. Exactly in the 100th minute Levsky scored again – the header was attributed to the ‘blue’ captain Kiril Ivkov, a mistake, for the goalscorer was Georgy Tzvetkov. Ivkov later corrected the mistake – a rarely seen jest. This goal to be the end of CSKA – Levski attacked furiously to the final whistle.
Disappointing season, a Cup, and kit, which became cultic: this is not the full squad, but the selection winning the Cup final (although they played in Adidas by that time): top, from left: Donchev – assistant coach, Gaydarsky, Yordanov, Iliev, Vutzov – coach, Staykov, Ivkov, Grancharov, Aladzov.
First row: Tishanski, Voynov, Stoyanov, Tzvetkov, Panov, Pavlov, Spassov.
Only Stefan Staykov did not play at the final. Inconsistency was the main quality of Levski-Spartak: strong in fall of 1975, having perhaps their best run in the European Club tournaments; then disgusting spring, blowing away a ‘sure title’; then getting motivated again for the Cup final.
Akademik (Sofia) finished third – one of their best seasons ever and generally the crown achievement of gradually progressing team since 1971.
Bottom, from left: B. Angelov, D. Gologanov, Ml. Vassilev, L. Lozanov, B. Simov, S. Yankov, D. Aleksiev, St. Parvanov, P. Aleksandrov.
Top: D. Roev – coach, G. Roev, T. Paunov, Yu. Ivanov, Yu. Nikolov, Yo. Nikolov, Il. Chalev, Kr. Goranov, D. Efremov, G. Tikhanov, E. Manolov – assistant coach.
Climbing to third position – for a club with limited resources, no influence, no supporters, and big clubs constantly stealing players from ‘the students’, Akademik were truly heroic. Danko Roev was a miracle coach, managing to find new players under such circumstances, maintaining the pleasant technical style of the team. I personally prefer an earlier version of Akademik, but the 1975-76 vintage finished at the highest possible place for a small club. And perhaps it was the only enjoyable performance in otherwise bleak year.