FC Barcelona 3-4 Sporting Clube de Portugal
The UEFA Futsal Champions League concluded on Monday evening, with the full match broadcast with commentary live on BT Sport 2 in the UK. The entire finals had been available to watch for UK viewers and the matches did not disappoint the thousands who tuned in. This match ended up going down to the wire, with Sporting CP holding on to win their second European title in three years, and continuing their unbeaten run that now stretches back well over a year.
The game had started badly for Sporting, their team looking less relaxed on the ball compared with Barca in what was a frantic start. Within the first couple of minutes Merlim under-hit a pass into the middle of the court which was easily intercepted by Marcenio who advanced up the centre of the court and smashed it past a helpless Guitta to make it 1-0 to the current champions. Shortly later Merlim was again caught out, this time with the ball at his feet, but this time Guitta made a good save to prevent Barca extending their lead. Sporting struggled to maintain their composure, conceding a number of chances, Esquerdinha hitting the post and Adolfo having an effort from wide saved. Sporting became frustrated at their lack of cutting edge, and got caught out a few times, Taynan going into the book for a bad foul as Barca looked to break. Erick followed that with a pointless foul on Ferrao. Nuno must have been concerned at his team’s anxiousness and called a timeout – this allowed Sporting to settle.
Esquerdinha hit the post for a second time with a header from an excellent Didac throw out, but gradually Sporting got more of a foothold in the game, having more of the ball and a few long shots on goal. Sporting’s Zicky had a chance but an excellent save from Didac fell to Merlim who looked like he was fouled as he tried to follow it up. The referees didn’t give it – this allowed Barca to break 3 v 1 where the ball found its way to Ximbinha on the right, and Guitta was left with no choice but to close him down as he had multiple options to pass and score an easy goal. Ximbinha was able to fool the goalkeeper and slot the ball beneath him as he advanced to put Barca two goals ahead before half time.
Sporting came out swinging in the second half, obviously determined to put the pressure back on Barca. Immediately we saw Guitta in the opposition half with the ball as Sporting took the game to their opponents. More good throws by Didac and some other direct plays were Barca’s only opportunities as Sporting dominated the ball and began to assert themselves in the game. They seemed slightly calmer, and made fewer mistakes as a result. Sporting’s first goal came after strong play by Zicky, the youngest player left in the competition, after a couple of lucky breaks and deflections the ball fell to him at the back post to get a goal back. That rejuvenated Sporting and now it was them making all the running. In the previous rounds Sporting had been particularly effective on set plays – a kick-in was well worked and Erick scored the rarest of futsal goals, a header, to equalise at 2-2. Varela whipped in a great cross and Taynan was inches away from making it a third goal in as many minutes. Didac made an outstanding save to deny a volley off another kick-in, and Barca, who were well and truly on the ropes, called a much needed time-out.
It didn’t help much – following the restart Sporting continued to press, more fantastic tricky play by Zicky took a couple of players out of the game and he was hacked down to stop his progress. Taynan struck the free-kick well, it was deflected onto the post and it fell perfectly for Sporting captain Joao Matos who duly tucked it away. Zicky and Erick combined with more great play that ended up with another shot against the woodwork. Erick had another chance to break but was cynically fouled. Barca had to now try and chase the game, and naturally Sporting began to take their foot off the gas as they looked to hold on to their slender lead. Dyego forced another good save from Guitta. With about three minutes remaining, Barca went fly-keeper, but Ferrao was immediately dispossessed by Erick who beat the covering defender and had an empty net to shoot at, his slow effort hit the post but fortunately for Sporting it was followed in by Pauleta who was able to convert to make it 4-2 with almost three minutes to play. Barca get back into it soon after, some good play allows Coelho to shoot from the Barca right, its saved by Guitta but into a bad area – it falls to Ferrao who is able to easily put it into the corner with pace to close the gap. Barca played a fly keeper with a narrow first line, hoping to get Ferrao on the left with an opportunity to shoot on his right foot, or to work it to the back post. It almost comes off a number of times, but committed defending and teamwork by Sporting limits their chances. The best remaining opportunity came for Ferrao who had a very difficult chance to score a header at the back post, but the ball in by Esquerdinha was just behind him a fraction. Sporting held on to secure a famous victory in what was an amazing second half turnaround from 2-0 down! Another incredible game, played with a great intensity, and what an advert for the sport and anyone thinking to get involved. The match highlighted everything that’s great about futsal, with relentless pace, intensity and excitement throughout the match.