Russia's eight-year wait for a third UEFA Futsal Cup victory ended as debutants Ugra Yugorsk pipped hosts Inter FS in a thrilling final tournament in Guadalajara.
Ugra proved their worth when they eliminated holders Kairat Almaty 5-2 in the elite round, just the second time since the competition's current format was introduced in 2006/07 that the reigning champions had missed the finals. But Ugra's squad were far from green, as not only had Vladislav Shayakhmetov and Andrei Afanasyev been part of the last Russian success in 2008 with Sinara Ekaterinburg, Robinho also had triumphed three years earlier at Action 21 Charleroi.
The 2010 winners Benfica were Ugra's semi-final opponents and the 40 minutes of normal time flew by, the Eagles having to equalise late to make it 3-3. Ugra goalkeeper and captain Zviad Kupatadze had been sent off at 1-1 for handling outside the area yet replacement Sergei Slemzin did well. After both teams then scored once in extra time, the goalkeeper saved Rafael Henmi's kick in the shoot-out and Robinho coolly converted to send Ugra into the decider.
Record three-time winners Inter were cheered on by a capacity crowd against another debutant Pescara, who had become the first to progress from the preliminary round to the finals. They led through Mauro Canal but Ricardinho and Cardinal turned the game. Rafael struck for 3-1 in the first minute of the second half but there was a tight finish after Adolfo Salas pulled one back, Mario Rivillos eventually settling matters at the death for a 4-2 victory.
Pescara looked on course for a bronze medal when 2-0 up against Benfica in the third-place match. However, their advantage was wiped out and the Portuguese side prevailed 2-0 on penalties, their former Murcia FS goalkeeper Juanjo now having been involved in five of the nine shoot-outs in this competition's history.
After three thrillers, it was only right that the final also went to the wire. Ricardinho, injured against Pescara, played though was not his normal self, while Slemzin again caught the eye for Ugra. Both teams led in the first half and it was 2-2 from the 18th to the 38th minute, when Afanasyev finished off an Ugra corner move. With 55 seconds left Katata bundled the ball into an empty net for 4-2.
Inter were not finished, though, and Daniel Shiraishi pulled one back. Then Ivan Chishkala was sent off for Ugra; the hosts even rattled the woodwork late on but the Russian club stood firm to emulate compatriots Dynamo (2007) and Ekatrinburg (2008). "You can't beat Inter just by knocking the ball around," Ugra coach Kakà said. "You have to show an enormous amount of heart, desire and sacrifice."
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