"There were some nervous moments," said relieved FC Grand Pro Varna coach Dimitar Pantev after a tense last day of UEFA Futsal Cup preliminary round action. However, his side remained composed to accompany Baku United FC, MFK VitEn Vitebsk and Vegakameratene into the main round.
Hamburg Panthers, Sporting Clube de Paris, Athina '90 and KMF Tango Sarajevo had already booked their progress on Wednesday and Thursday. The group winners all progress to the main round which takes place from 1-6 October.
Hosts Wisła Kraków only needed a draw against fellow debutants Baku United FC to top a section reduced to three teams by KF Jedinstvo Bijelo Polje's withdrawal. An attacking Polish outfit were instead soundly beaten 7-0 by a team that were clinical on the counter, with Marcelo and Arnaldo Pereira both hitting doubles as the English champions progressed.
Vegakameratene of Norway held a three-point lead going into their crucial final fixture against hosts Stella Rossa Wien who, along with Swiss side Futsal Minerva, could have pipped them to top spot. They made heavy weather of getting the point they required, but twice fought back to equalise and progress for a third successive year. Minerva's resounding 10-0 win against Firat Üniversitesi Elzig, shaped by hat-tricks for Yves Mezger and Imanol Carrasco, was only enough for second place.
Hosts FC Grand Pro Varna led KMF Zelezarec Skopje on goal difference going into the decisive meeting between the two sides. It was an affair settled by the narrowest of margins, Hristo Dimitrov thumping in the only goal just before half-time to send Varna into the main round. "There were nervous moments, but we showed great spirit and character – we will enjoy it," said Varna coach Pantev. Eliminated FC Encamp of Andorra finished their campaign in style, beating FC Shahumyan Yerevan 10-4. Four different players scored twice for Encamp, while Genrik Grigoryan bagged a hat-trick for their Armenian opponents.
On Thursday, hosts Göteborg Futsal Club came back from 4-0 down to beat Perth Saltires 5-4 and keep the group alive, but they could not make those efforts count in Saturday's decider against MFK VitEn Vitebsk. Serhiy Кrykun fired a double as the Belarusian outfit beat their Swedish challengers 5-2 to clinch top spot by a five-point margin. Meanwhile, a 2-0 victory meant Irish side Eden College Futsal came away with the bragging rights from their match with Scottish counterparts Perth Saltires.
Hamburg Panthers had won the group already, leaving nothing on the line in their final fixture against hosts FS Ilves. A 2-2 stalemate mattered more to bottom side Ilves, who showed character to come back from two goals down and hold the section winners. Hibernians FC, meanwhile, leapfrogged JB Futsal Gentofte into second place with an entertaining 3-2 win; Georgian forward David Bobokhidze scoring the winner late on.
Main round draw
Group 1 (3-6 October): Slov-Matic Bratislava (SVK), FK Nikars Riga (LVA)*, MFK VitEn Vitebsk (BLR), Hamburg Panthers (GER)
Group 2 (1-4 October): Iberia Star Tbilisi (GEO), ETO FC Győr (HUN)*, KMF Tango Sarajevo (BIH), FC Grand Pro Varna (BUL)
Group 3 (2-5 October): Marca Futsal (ITA), Tulpar Karagandy (KAZ), FC Lokomotiv Kharkiv (UKR)*, Sporting Clube de Paris (FRA)
Group 4 (1-4 October): FK EP Chrudim (CZE), FC Litija (SVN), AC Omonia Nicosia (CYP)*, Baku United FC (ENG)
Group 5 (2-5 October): KMF Ekonomac Kragyjevac (SRB)*, Club Futsal Eindhoven (NED), MNK Nacional Zagreb (CRO), Vegakameratene (NOR)
Group 6 (2-5 October): Araz Naxçivan (AZE), City'US Târgu Mures (ROU)*, Châtelineau Futsal (BEL), Athina '90 (GRE)
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