Latvian champions FK Nikars Riga joined established names FK Era-Pack Chrudim and Action 21 Charleroi in earning places in the UEFA Futsal Cup Elite round on Thursday.
Nikars and Chrudim earned top two places in the concluding Main round Group 2 fixtures while Charleroi clinched top spot in Group 3 with a game to spare. The other four mini-tournaments, which run until Sunday, also began with former finalists SL Benfica racking up 15 goals.
Prior to kick-off in Chrudim, Era-Pack were three points clear of Nikars and Polish side Hurtap Łęczyca, who had lost to the Riga club on Tuesday. Nikars were concerned in the first game when they went in at the break 1-0 down to point-less FK Nautara Kaunas but Jevgenijs Matrjonins equalised and with four minutes left Aleksejs Baranovs struck twice in quick succession to ensure Arunas Steinas's late goal only made it 3-2 to Nikars. And their progress, and that of Chrudim, to the 13 October draw was ensured when the hosts beat Łęczyca 5-3 with a Lukáš Rešetár hat-trick and two Max strikes.
In Belgium, Charleroi and Finland's Golden Futsal Team came head to head having beaten Athina' 90 and Skövde AIK respectively on Wednesday. Charleroi, European champions in 2004/05, ran out 3-0 winners. That took them through, as their Saturday opponents Skövde lost 11-2 to Athina and are eliminated. Athina are second ahead of GFT on goal difference and only need a draw against the Espoo club to go through with Charleroi.
The remaining pools run until Sunday and after Matchday 1 are already taking shape. In Group 4, 2003/04 runners-up Benfica fell behind on 29 seconds to Montenegro Stars Budva but were to end up winning 15-1 with ten difference scorers. Slovenian hosts KMN Puntar beat Benfica's Friday opponents Viten Orsha of Belarus 3-0.
Also in the goals were Italy's Luparense Calcio A5, a Maquiel hat-trick helping them beat SC Tornado Chisinau 10-0 while Hungarian side MVFC Berettyóújfalu – staging Group 1 at the Fönix Arena in Debrecen that will be a venue for the UEFA European Futsal Championship finals in January – lost 6-0 to FC Time Lviv of Ukraine. In Group 5 in Croatia, Azerbaijan's Araz Naxçivan beat AC Omonia 4-1 and hosts MNK Potpićan 98 beat Serbian champions KMF Kolubara Lazarevac 4-3. The early pace-setters in Group 6 are Georgia's Iberia 2003 Tbilisi and Dutch side FC Marlène, who beat Erebuni Yerevan 5-0 and Romanian hosts FC CIP Deva 3-0 respectively.
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