Tag: champions league

Champions League Semi-Finals Review

This year’s UEFA Futsal Champions League final was settled between Sporting and Barcelona on Monday, here we review the matches that led to both of those teams making it to that match in their respective semi-finals.

Inter Movistar 2-5 Sporting Clube de Portugal

The first semi-final match saw Spanish giants Inter Movistar take on Sporting CP. Inter had recently defeated Barca in both the Spanish cup and the Super-cup finals, whilst Sporting are unbeaten in over a year and won this competition  two years ago, making this a clash between the dominant teams of Spain and Portugal. The match began at a high tempo, with Sporting exerting early pressure, which was rewarded when Cavinato scored after Herrero mis-controlled a crossed Merlim kick-in after just 1 minute and 24 seconds.

Inter then managed to push their way back into a physical and occasionally bad-tempered match, reflected by Sporting conceding five fouls within the first ten minutes. This Inter pressure was almost rewarded when Pito was denied by Merlim with a sliding block and then by Guitta with a point-blank save. Finally, after 11 minutes Inter equalised after Borja turned in Raya’s corner, although Sporting again took the lead thirty seconds later when their goalkeeper Guitta struck from distance and the ball deflected into the Inter goal off Borja. In a finely balanced first half in which Guitta in particular needed to make several saves, Inter committed their fifth foul with four minutes of the half remaining, although neither side conceded a sixth so there were no 10 m penalties. The first half ended 1-2 to Sporting.

After two minutes of the second half Herrero, the Inter keeper, needed to scrape the ball off the goal line to stop an own goal after an attack by Zicky and Merlim. Just a minute later Merlim’s kick-in went to Taynan who struck a low shot from distance that fooled Herrero. Inter 1-3 Sporting, with Sporting in control and Zicky hitting the goal post and Herrero making an important save from a Tomás Paço attempt just a minute later.

There was hope for Inter as Tomás Paço deflected in a Trípodi corner to make it 2-3 with just over eight minutes of the match remaining. However, Inter found it difficult to deal with Sporting’s physicality, with the latter committing five fouls in the second half with seven minutes remaining. Sporting then increased their lead after 34 minutes with a skilful individual goal by Varela assisted by Merlim. Inter 2-4 Sporting.

With three minutes remaining Inter threw on Pito as fly keeper. With only seconds remaining in the half and Inter fully committed, Erick was able to roll the ball from distance into the empty Inter goal to make the final score Inter 2-5 Sporting.

Sporting are now unbeaten in 45 games since January 2020 and become only the second club to reach four finals in five seasons, along with Inter. Nuno Dias, Sporting coach said: “I’m lost for words about my team! After we beat the Russian champions, now we have beaten the Spanish champions. I’m proud to see the spirit of these players, especially the players who have never been in such a competition before. It would be excellent if we can do it again like in Almaty. It’s true we haven’t lost for more than a year but what happened in Almaty is past.”

Tino PĂ©rez, the Inter coach said: “I want to say a few words of pride about my players, they have given everything during the game. Although things have not gone well, they gave their all. We leave with our heads high after this experience. In terms of the result, it is a failure, but as a coach it is a success because we played much better than our opponents. Yes, they did have more success in some aspects. These are things that we have to learn. I am happy because we are looking like the team I want.”

FC Barcelona 3-2 Kairat Almaty

The second semi-final on Saturday evening was another fantastic match-up, featuring Kazakhstan’s Kairat Almaty, who were without their captain and goalkeeper Leo Higuita, and another Spanish giant in Barca. Given Kairat’s extra exertions in beating Benfica in extra time in the quarters, and their missing keeper it always felt as though Barca had the advantage going into this game.

The match started at a reasonable pace, both sides with opportunities from distance, but nothing really clear cut as both teams held the other at arms-length and refused to overcommit in attack. Eventually, with what was the first really clear cut opportunity of the game Ferrao scored the most typical of Ferrao goals, receiving the ball with his back to goal and in one motion turning onto his left side and smashing it inside the young deputy keeper Serikov’s near post. Kairat responded by playing fly keeper and had a couple of decent opportunities as a result – Didac needing to makes some good saves. The half finished with both sides knowing they could have done more to threaten the opposition’s goal.

Barca started the second half with control of the ball, and it took less than a minute of play for Ferrao to take control of the match for Barca. He received the ball, again with his back to goal, this time working it inside onto his right foot, and what was spectacular about his strike was the amount of power he could generate given how early he took the shot, taking both the two defenders and the goalkeeper by surprise as it ended once again in the back of the net. Barca, now with a two goal lead, began to sit back and let Kairat do all the running, and they came close on a number of occasions, Edson forcing a good save and Tursagulov missing a glorious opportunity to get back in the game. Diego Favero finally made the breakthrough, firing a glorious strike inside Didac’s near post after the lay-up by Tursagulov, then a deflected strike from Gadeia almost found its way in to level things.

Marcenio almost extended Barca’s lead after more great play by Ferrao. Kairat began to play more risky balls in order to create opportunities to try and level the game, eventually one of Fernandinho’s was intercepted by Dyego, and a rash challenge to try and attone for the error left the Kairat defence outnumbered, Dyego worked it out wide to Aicardo who has the simplest of tasks to find Ferrao at the back post to complete his hat-trick. Kairat went fly keeper to get back in the game, using several different players in the role through the game. They made the breakthrough after a scuffed shot by Gadeia found its way fortuitously to Fernandinho who was lucky to get the ball to squirm through Didac’s clutches. Diego Favero, Douglas Junior and Humberto all had chances from range to level the score, but Barca defended well to keep them to long shots, and were able to see out a tense final minute. The second half was much more interesting than the first, but it won’t go down as the best match of the tournament. Barca played Sporting in the final, and you can read our report of that match here.

UEFA Futsal Champions League Final review

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.