Football / World Cup USA '94: Bulgaria masters of the shoot-out

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The Independent Online
Mexico. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

Bulgaria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

(aet: score at 90min 1-1)

(Bulgaria win 3-1 on pens)

THE first penalty shoot-out of USA '94 took Bulgaria past the second- round stage at Giants Stadium in New Jersey yesterday. After Mexico had failed to score from their first three spot kicks, Yordan Lechkov struck the decisive penalty.

The tired victors now meet Germany in the quarter-finals at the same venue on Sunday. After two early goals in a lively first half, the second period plus extra time brought little of note apart from two bizarre red cards.

Bulgaria's first attack produced a startling goal from Hristo Stoichkov. Ivailo Yordanov played a superb through ball to Stoichkov, who hammered an unstoppable shot past Jorge Campos.

Emil Kostadinov could have put his side two goals ahead when he lashed a shot against a post from a free-kick, but Mexico were soon level. Alberto Garcia Aspe scored from the spot, after Emil Kremenliev was judged to have fouled Luis Alves.

The match was interrupted soon after the equaliser when Marcelino Bernal became tangled in his own net, breaking part of the woodwork. It took over five minutes for replacement posts to be erected.

The Syrian referee, Jamal Al Sharif, was the focus of attention once more at the start of the second half, and again Kremenliev was the man to suffer. There appeared to be little physical contact when the Levski Sofia defender challenged an opponent for the ball but, to his disbelief, Kremenliev, who had been booked earlier, was yellow, then red, and trudged off in tears.

Mexico's one-man advantage only lasted nine minutes, though. When Luis Garcia, contesting a loose ball with Yordanov, caught his adversary in the face with his foot, the contact looked accidental. However, the referee thought otherwise and Garcia, also booked in the first half, was on his way.

The two early departures did nothing for the game as a spectacle, and the potent attacking play of the first half became a memory.

MEXICO (4-4-2): Campos (UNAM); Rodriguez (Toluca), Suarez, J Ramirez Perales (both UNAM), R Ramirez (Santos Torreon); Ambriz (Necaxa), Bernal (Toluca), A Garcia Aspe (Necaxa), L Garcia (Atletico Madrid); Alves (America), Galindo (CD Guadalajara).

BULGARIA (1-4-3-2): Mikhailov (Mulhouse); Hubchev (Levski Sofia); Kremenliev (Levski Sofia), Borimirov (Levski Sofia), Yordanov (Sporting Lisbon), Kiryakov (Lerida); Lechkov (Hamburg), Sirakov (Levski Sofia), Balakov (Sporting Lisbon); Kostadinov (Porto), Stoichkov (Barcelona). Substitutes: Genchev (Ipswich Town) for Sirakov, 102; Mikhtarski (Pirin Blagoevgrad) for Kostadinov, 119.

Referee: J Al Sharif (Syria).