Kairat Almaty and Iberia Star Tbilisi secured victories on the opening day of UEFA Futsal Cup elite round Group C in Kazakhstan.
Hosts Kairat, aiming to reach the four-team finals for the third time since the current system was introduced in 2007, saw off Polish competition newcomers Akademia FC Pniewy 5-0 while Georgian champions Iberia defeated Slov-Matic Bratislava 3-1. On Sunday Kairat play Bratislava and Iberia meet Pniewy as they attempt to set up a Tuesday decider.
Iberia made the perfect start against the Slovakian representatives when Betinho scored after just 77 seconds. Late in the first half Roni doubled the lead for Iberia, the only team to have taken part in all ten editions of this competition.
Bratislava changed the game when they deployed a flying goalkeeper and Voitech Várady pulled one back just past the half-hour but with Slov-Matic's net empty as they strove for victory, Bruno Melo's 38th-minute strike sealed victory for Iberia, who have never reached the last four. "It was very important for us to begin the tournament with a victory," said Iberia coach Oleg Solodovnyk. "In the elite round there are no weak opponents."
In the second game Kairat – who received a bye to this round – also struck swiftly, Katata on target in the third minute but it was still only 1-0 at the interval. However, on 25 minutes Giva doubled the lead and seconds later Kelson, a UEFA Futsal Cup winner with Action 21 Charleroi and MFK Dinamo Moskva, made it three. In the last minute Katata and Dinmukhambet Suleimenov added further goals. João Carlos Barbosa, the Kairat coach, said: "We are grateful to our fans today and I hope we will have more support tomorrow."
Three other mini-tournaments will be played over the next week.
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