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Champions League: Moti delivers Ludogorets fairytale

updated 7:13 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti was the hero as the Bulgarian club made the European Champions League.
Ludogorets defender Cosmin Moti was the hero as the Bulgarian club made the European Champions League.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad qualify for Champions League group stages
  • Defender Cosmin Moti the hero after going in goal for the decisive penalty shootout
  • Moti scores his own penalty and then saves two from Steaua Bucharest players
  • "Nobody could write such a story," says Moti after the fairytale is completed

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(CNN) -- It is a football fairytale even Hollywood scriptwriters might view as stretching the bounds of credibility.

But in a dilapidated stadium in the north east of Bulgaria, one club's European Champions League dream came true on Wednesday night.

Ludogorets Razgrad, who had never before qualified for the group stages of the continent's most lucrative competition, took down 1986 winners Steaua Bucharest in scarcely believable fashion.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg in Romania, Ludogorets snatched a dramatic last minute equalizer to take the knockout tie into extra time.

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But then disaster struck. With a penalty shootout looming, its goalkeeper Vladislav Stoyanov was sent off for a second yellow card.

Romanian-born defender Cosmin Moti then donned the gloves, and safely guided his side through to the shootout.

Then the fireworks really began. Not only did Moti score Ludogorets' opening kick, he then saved two Steaua penalties to seal an incredible victory.

"This is incredible, a dream. Nobody could write such a story. I have no words to describe the feeling," Moti, who used to play for Steaua's rivals Dinamo Bucharest, told UEFA's official website.

"It was the first time in my career I have played as a keeper. Sometimes in training I pretend to be a goalie, but it is the first time I've done it with gloves on. I relied on my instincts -- there is no other way in such a situation.

"I was just taking last-second decisions on where to jump. Thank God, I saved two and we are there. This is it. This is the Champions League. Incredible."

Moti's heroics were made all the more remarkable given he performed them in front of legendary Steaua goalkeeper Helmut Ducadam, the club's honorary president.

Ducadam made four successive saves in Steaua's 1986 penalty shootout with Barcelona in the European Cup final, delivering the trophy for his side.

"Ducadam is the probably the greatest Romanian goalkeeper," Moti said. "I grew up with the stories about that final. He is a legend."

After the match, Ludogorets coach Georgi Dermendviev revealed Moti often has a go in goal during training.

"Sometimes during training sessions we practice penalties and he has a habit of going in goal for fun," he said. "I asked him whether he wanted to take the gloves it and he agreed.

"I told him not to jump prematurely and wait. He has a good instinct and reaction. But after all this is incredible. He has never even trained with gloves."

Now it seems Ludogorets' regular goalkeeper Stoyanov faces a fight to regain his place as No. 1 at the club.

"Yes, it seems we have too many goalkeepers in the team," he joked. "I was not afraid when I saw him putting on the gloves. There is no guarantee I would have done better.

"I have no words to describe this game. I had to make the foul, the Steaua player was too quick. But this is our dream, this is the result of sweat and hard work."

Ludogorets now takes its place in the draw on Thursday alongside European powerhouses Real Madrid -- the defending champions -- Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus.

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