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Anfield the big reward for Moti's heroics in shoot-out

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Cosmin Moti of Ludogorets Razgrad in action during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round second leg between PFC Ludgorets Razgrad and FC Steaua Bucuresti

Cosmin Moti of Ludogorets Razgrad in action during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round second leg between PFC Ludgorets Razgrad and FC Steaua Bucuresti

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Cosmin Moti of Ludogorets Razgrad in action during the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Play-Offs Round second leg between PFC Ludgorets Razgrad and FC Steaua Bucuresti

For all the rich possibilities of the new Champions League campaign at Anfield, it will take something special from Liverpool this season to match the drama their opening visitors, Ludogorets Razgrad, have already scripted simply to be there with them.

After all, the Bulgarian newcomers are only rubbing shoulders with the Reds thanks to Cosmin Moti, the Romania international defender who morphed into a goalkeeping hero in their play-off penalty shoot-out against Steaua Bucharest.

With 'keeper Vladislav Stoyanov sent off he took the gloves and, as he said, duly "got lucky" against the team he once faced in local derbies with Dinamo Bucharest.

Reliving that night at Sofia's National Stadium, he said: "I'd never been in goal in a real game, not even really in training - only to joke around. But I had no pressure on me. For me it was like, 'OK, if I save one it will be great'."

As it was, the 29-year-old saved two - and scored one for good measure - and it was more than great. The team from a town of 35,000 people were bound for Anfield and the Bernabeu. Moreover, a club with an average home crowd of 3,405 and summer transfer spend of £2.4m could look forward to an estimated minimum windfall of £12m.

"It was a crazy night," said Moti. "It was the next day when everybody tried to call me that I realised how special it was. It is a dream for every player from this team. It is a chance for us to play the best - we are meeting two of the best teams in the world, and another good team in Basel.

"It will be hard to win or get a point from Liverpool and Real Madrid but I don't want people to think we will go there thinking we are beaten - we will go to (Anfield) to play," said Moti. "I hope we can play good football and that afterwards we can hold our heads up high." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent