SL Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal ensured one city will have two representatives in the UEFA Futsal Cup finals for the first time after both won their elite round groups on Sunday to complete the lineup.
Both teams trailed their opponents going into the deciding games, but holders Benfica defeated KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac 5-2 in Serbia to win Group A and Sporting – hosting Group D – overcame ElPozo Murcia FS 5-3 in a thrilling finish. The Lisbon pair join Kairat Almaty and ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5 in the knockout finals, with one of those four hosting the showpiece beginning on 28 or 29 April and concluding two days later.
Sporting fell behind early on against Murcia to Saúl's effort but Déo was then introduced and scored twice, the second on the stroke of half-time, to change the game. In a frantic five-minute spell after the break, Álvaro and Tiago Carpes equalised for Murcia only for Sporting's lead to be quickly restored, firstly by Vinicius's own goal – under pressure from Déo – and then Alex.
Mauricio came on as a flying goalkeeper for Murcia as they pressed for a third equaliser but in the 38th minute Vinicius was sent off for a professional foul on Leitão. Sporting made the one-man advantage tell when Alex struck again with 44 seconds left, confirming a victory that means Spain will have no representatives for the first time since the four-team finals were introduced in 2006/07. In the later game, four Douglas goals gave FK EP Chrudim a 7-5 win against City'us Târgu Mureş and third place.
Orlando Duarte, the Sporting coach, said: "This win gives me a great feeling. We are very strong. Right now we feel that we are stronger then the others, no matter who comes in our way. The fans were fantastic, amazing. It was very emotional. In April we'll be there to do better then we have done before.
We always feel that we are capable of turning around any result, anywhere, against anyone."
Benfica trailed hosts Ekonomac on goal difference at kick-off but their experience told as within 14 minutes were 2-0 up against nervous opponents thanks to Diece and Arnaldo, and never looked back. Earlier, FC Time Lviv claimed third place following a 4-1 defeat of MNK Nacional Zagreb.
For ourselves and Ekonomac it was an important game, and we showed why we are European champions," said Benfica coach Paulo Fernandes. "We won, but it wouldn't have been possible if we haven't been at our best. I would like to congratulate Ekonomac and their coach, they got better from game to game."
Ekonomac coach Ivan Božović added: "We made lots of mistakes at the begining of the game, which made us more insecure. That is why we lost the game. Benifica showed their strength and cool heads by demonstrating how to play good and disciplined futsal. We had a chance and we wanted to win, but more than this we just could not do."
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