UEFA Futsal Champions League semi-final roundup: Sporting and Barca prepare for final rehearsal
Sporting CP and Barca will face off for the second straight final after a thrilling day of quarter-finals at Arena Riga.
Holders Sporting had to work to beat ACCS Asnières Villeneuve 92 6-2 to maintain their bid for a third title in four years, then Benfica conceded three goals only for Barca to recover and eventually win 5-4 at the end of overtime. Now they will be looking to avenge their 4-3 defeat in the 2021 decisive game against Sporting.
Holders Sporting are in their fifth final in six seasons but have been pushed all the way by the first French side to feature at this stage. Cardinal and Diego Cavinato both hit the post early on, and the pressure was on when Sporting’s recent signing Esteban, on his European debut, turned into Erick’s corner with a low shot to Long range.
Ricardinho, playing a deep role for ACCS, nearly set up Landry N’Gala with a long ball but it was French goalkeeper Careca who had to keep Sporting at bay. He was beaten twice more in the first half, with Tomás Paço heading in from Miguel Ângelo’s chipped cross and Alex Merlim striking after Zicky’s pass. However, Pany Varela was sent off before the break for a raised arm to Bolinha and within seconds Nelson Lutin pulled one back.
ACCS looked much stronger after that, but early in the second half Zicky stole the ball and set up Diego Cavinato to make it 4-1. ACCS kept pressing and Salah Galmim returned the ball after a fine exchange between Ricardinho and flying goalkeeper N’Gala. Merlim, however, showed good footwork to get his second of the game, and Cardinal converted a penalty he won himself to confirm Sporting’s progress.
Key stat: Sporting captain João Matos set a new record of 16 final appearances while manager Nuno Dias became the first to captain a single club 50 times in this competition.
Alex Merlim, sports scorer: “We are in the final and we fully deserved the win against a fiery ACCS team who never gave up. I think we played well and I’m really happy to have scored twice because it helped us achieve our goal. Now we have to rest and prepare for the final. I think this team has what it takes to win the title again.”
Ricardinho, ACCS player: “The dream was to be here in these finals and not go to the final. We knew how difficult it was going to be and we did our best. Sporting were better and deserved the result but I think we we can leave with our heads held high because we gave it our all. I’m especially proud that this team has arrived at this stage and has been able to compete with the best. I hope that they will take this as an experience so that they understand that we still have a lot to develop until we’re really good enough.
“People are used to seeing Ricardinho score bicycle shots and all that, but even at the Futsal World Cup it was already different. After my injury I had to adapt to a different type of movement. I was able to realize my dream of becoming world champion and winning an individual prize. Above all, in these kinds of matches, when you play against people who have more quality than you in general, you have to know adapt, you have to sacrifice, you have to defend, and you have to position yourself differently. That’s what I tried to do. I tried to give everything for the team because this group of players deserves it, because of the sacrifices and struggles we had during the season.”
Where to watch the matches: TV/streams
Benfica led from the first minute, Hossein Tayebi converting a penalty after Barca goalkeeper Didac Plana fouled Vinicius Rocha. Midway through the half there was a second for Benfica as Vinicius Rocha moved forward down the left and kicked the ball past Didac Plana. Then late came a seemingly crucial moment as Marcênio hit the woodwork with the goal at his mercy and Benfica went straight to the other end, Robinho setting up Afonso Jesus to make it 3-0.
Just 21 seconds after the break, Barca had a comeback as Matheus Rodrigues’ shot deflected off the post and into the goal of unlucky goalkeeper André Sousa. He redeemed himself with an incredible double save from close range to deny a stunned Ferrao, but he had to beat the keeper with a solid back heel, ensuring he equaled injured teammate Esquerdinha’s career record of ten goals . And with less than six minutes to play, Dyego cut and equalized with an angled shot.
Shortly after, Barca were awarded a ten-yard penalty but Sergio Lozano hit the post. However, in the 38th minute Dyego struck again and appeared to have won. But seconds later, Chishkala, deployed as a flying goalkeeper, equalized following Robinho’s pass. In extra time, Matheus Rodrigues was twice denied by Andre Sousa, but there were just 18 seconds left when Adolfo found the target for a dramatic winner.
Key stat: Barça equal the record of Inter FS, FC Dynamo and Sporting by reaching a third consecutive final.
Ferrao, Barça striker: “Epic, just epic! We knew it was going to be difficult but we didn’t expect to be down three goals at halftime. Our team never stopped believing that it was possible to organize a come back and we were rewarded for that belief. Benfica were defending deep and the game was very close so I had to try something different and I’m so glad it worked! Now we are playing Sporting in the final and we “We’ll try to make up for the loss from last season. It’s going to be an amazing game for sure and we can’t wait to be a part of it.”
Benfica striker Vinicius Rocha“To tell you the truth, I still can’t believe we lost. I’m a bit at a loss for words and it’s really hard to accept that we’re not in the final. Everything seemed to be going in our sense but that all of a sudden everything changed. But that’s futsal. We left everything out there on the pitch, but it just wasn’t our night. I can’t even think of the third place game right now, but we will have to find a way to recover from this huge setback.”