A Cinderella team and an incredible save-the-day performance stole the show Wednesday in Champions League action.
Cosmin Moti, a central defender for Ludogorets Razgrad, was forced into goal when regular keeper Vladislav Stoyanov was red-carded in the 118th minute of their match against Steaua Bucuresti. Moti then scored once in the penalty shootout (with his goalie gloves on!) and saved two as the Bulgarian outsiders knocked off Steaua, a former European champion, to reach the group stage for the first time in history.
The decisive save came when Cornel Raja failed to get his spot kick far enough toward the left corner, allowing Moti to get his body behind it. He made the catch, then raced toward the Ludogorets fans, climbing the fence in front of them to celebrate. Earlier, Moti guessed correctly to stop Paul Pirvulescu, while the winners made all but one of their seven attempts to capture the tiebreaker 6-5.
Stoyanov was sent off for tripping Fernando Varela to prevent a breakaway scoring chance as an otherwise uneventful extra period was winding down. Since Ludogorets had used their three substitutes, a field player had to go between the posts. Moti, a Romanian international defender, picked up reserve keeper Ivan Cvorovic’s shirt, pulled on the gloves and turned into an instant Bulgarian hero.
"He’s a great player he’s got the right personality and character. If only we had more players like him," said Ludogorets owner Kiril Domuschiev, who proposed building a new stand named after Moti in the team’s arena.
Ludogorets Razgrad is in the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in its history. The club earned $11.3 million for making the group stage and gets $1.3 million for each win, ESPN reported.