UCL: McMillan leads Dundalk past BATE Borisov; Ludogorets advance
Ireland's Dundalk progressed to the Champions League's playoff stages after a 3-1 aggregate defeat of BATE Borisov -- securing European group-stage football this season.
The Airtricity League champions had lost the first-leg 1-0 but overcame the deficit against their Belarusian opponents through a goal in either half from David McMillan and a late third from substitute Robert Benson.
Stephen Kenny's side go into contention to face Manchester City, Porto, Villarreal, Roma and others for a place in the group stages and have the safety net of playing in the Europa League even if they are eliminated in the next round.
McMillan's first goal came in the 44th minute following fine play on the left wing from Daryl Horgan. Retaining possession under pressure from three defenders, Horgan found space to send a cross towards McMillan from which he jumped to head into the top corner.
The 27-year-old's second, in the 58th minute, was equally impressive but came amid Borisov's poor defending. Their lack of pressure allowed Dane Massey to collect the loose ball inside the area and chip towards the unchallenged McMillan, who sent a diving header into the back of the net.
Instead of defending their lead, Dundalk pursued a third goal. It came in the last minute when Benson, who replaced McMillan in the 78th minute, broke through on goal and showed his composure to calmly finish beyond goalkeeper Sergei Veremko.
The victory represents one of the finest achievements of any Irish team, and will earn them a reported cash windfall of £5.89 million.
Ludogorets Razgrad outlasted Red Star Belgrade 4-2 in a six-goal shootout that saw both teams finish with 10 players, as the Bulgarian club advanced in Champions League qualifying after a 6-4 aggregate win.
Red Star had the upper hand early after a Mitchell Donald goal saw the Serbian outfit briefly take the aggregate lead outright at 3-2, before Ludogorets scored twice ahead of the break to pull back in front.
Igor Plastun was sent off for the visitors in the 44th minute giving Red Star hope of pulling back the tie, only to see one of their own sent off in first-half injury time as Guelor Kanga was shown a straight red card for violent conduct.
Nonetheless, Red Star started brightly to bring the tie back to level terms at 4-4 when Luis Ibanez converted a penalty after Ludogorets' Jose Luis Palomino was whistled for a hard foul in the area.
The visitors were undeterred and secured passage to the next playoff round as Wanderson scored his second and third goals of the match to round out a hat trick on the day.
Eight minutes of second-half injury time helped Apoel Nicosia turn around a first-leg deficit to Rosenborg as the Cyprus-based club advance with a 3-0 win at home.
Still trailing 2-1 on aggregate after 90 minutes of regulation play, Giannis Gianniotas, Vander Vieira and Tomas De Vincenti each scored to send their Norwegian rivals home in shock defeat.
Earlier in the day, Viktoria Plzen scored a crucial late goal against Qarabag to earn a 1-1 draw and advance on away goals.
The hosts looked in great shape after holding on to a 1-0 lead throughout most of the match following a 29th-minute strike from Muarem Muarem.
But the visitors had the final laugh, as substitute Michal Krmencik headed home from a Jan Kopic cross to win the tie.
Dinamo Zagreb easily finished off Dinamo Tbilisi with an early goal from Marko Rog adding to their 2-0 first-leg advantage and helping the Croatian club to a 3-0 aggregate win.