The lineup for Thursday's elite round draw in Nyon is now complete after Luparense C/5 claimed first place in main round Group 1 and Slov-Matic Bratislava took the runners-up spot after both won their final matches in Cyprus.
A tense round of games in the last group to be decided began with three teams hoping to go through, hosts AC Omonia starting the day on top of the pile as they targeted a first ever spot in the elite round. Slov-Matic have reached that stage for the last four years, in contrast, and, needing to win by two goals to advance, they extended their run with a 7-2 defeat of bottom side FC Grand Pro Varna.
Clearly desperate to prevail, the Slovakian side struck the woodwork three times in the first minute of play, before Martin Rejžek, Gabriel Bartošek, Peter Haľko and Ladislav Mikita built them a 4-0 lead after just over ten minutes. Haľko and Mikita later doubled their tallies to send Slov-Matic top temporarily.
That result increased the pressure on Luparense and Omonia in the later game, with only the victors assured of qualifying. As it was, 2010 semi-finalists Luparense prevailed after finally discovering form in front of goal, Merlim and Fabiano putting the Italian club 2-0 up before Roberto gave the home side hope. They could not register again, however, and goals from Giovanni Pedotti, Merlim and captain Humberto Honorio sealed the result.
"It was a very difficult game," commented Luparense coach Fulvio Colini afterwards. "Omonia were a very fast team playing in front of lots of noisy supporters. We needed to work hard. We finally woke up in the final game against Omonia, but we still need to work harder in the next round of the competition."
For Omonia, it was a disappointing end to a mini-tournament that had opened with a creditable 3-3 draw against Slov-Matic, Roberto scoring twice for the Cypriot side. They then followed up with a 5-3 defeat of Bulgarian contenders Varna, who kicked off with a 2-0 reverse at the hands of Luparense, for whom Pedotti and Pablo made the difference.
That match had highlighted Luparense's goalscoring difficulties, and they were subsequently confirmed in a goalless draw with Slov-Matic that nonetheless kept both teams in the running. Holding their nerve to win their last matches, the two hopefuls will now take their place in the draw along with the ten other sides that have qualified this week plus the four top seeds exempted up until now.
Elite round lineup
Draw: 13 September
Matches: 9-14 October
Top seeds: FC Barcelona (ESP, holders), SL Benfica (POR), Murcia FS (ESP), Kairat Almaty (KAZ)
Main round winners: Luparense C/5 (ITA, Group 1), KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac (SRB, 2), Energy Lviv (UKR, 3), FC Litija (SVN, 4), MFK Dinamo (RUS, 5), Győri ETO FC (HUN, 6)
Main round runners-up: Slov-Matic Bratislava (SVK, 1), FK Nikars Riga (LVA, 2), FK EP Chrudim (CZE, 3), Iberia Star Tbilisi (GEO, 4), MNK Split (CRO, 5), Araz Naxçivan (AZE, 6)
Two of the elite round groups will contain one top seed, two main round winners and one runner-up. The other two two groups will contain one top seed, one main round winner and two runners-up. No team can meet a side they faced in the main round.
Four teams have been pre-designated as hosts as per the competition regulations and will be drawn from a separate pot with one going in each group, though without changing their seeding. The four host teams are:
Murcia FS (ESP)
KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac (SRB)
Iberia Star Tbilisi (GEO)
FC Litija (SVN)
The winners of each main round group advance through to the knockout finals in late April, with the hosts picked from among their number.
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