Bulgaria inflict first defeat on leaders Romania

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SOFIA, Nov 17 (Reuters) Velizar Dimitrov's early goal gave Bulgaria a 1-0 victory over Romania on Saturday to hand the Group G leaders their first defeat in Euro qualifying.

Bulgaria moved on to 22 points, one point behind the Netherlands, but have only a slim chance of reaching next year's finals as the Dutch should make sure of progressing with Romania when they host Luxembourg later today.

In front of less than 10,000 spectators at Vasil Levski Stadium, the home side went in front after six minutes when Martin Petrov curled in a tempting cross from the left and Dimitrov scored with a firm header.

Romania replied in style as Banel Nicolita was put through on goal but was denied by Bulgaria goalkeeper Dimitar Ivankov 10 minutes later.

Ivankov did even better seven minutes before halftime when he saved Daniel Niculae's thunderous shot from the edge of the penalty area.

Bulgaria started positively in the second half. Romania keeper Bogdan Lobont parried a shot from 20 metres by Stilian Petrov after 59 minutes while Martin Petrov blasted just over the bar few minutes later.

Dimitar Berbatov, searching for his 39th international goal in 60 appearances, missed a golden opportunity to double Bulgaria's advantage with 10 minutes remaining after failing to covert Hristo Yovov's precise cross from the right.

Riot police were forced to intervene at halftime after Romanian fans began fighting amongst themselves.

REUTERS RAR VC2356

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