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 Pérez, 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.