Portugal began UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 with victory against the team they beat in the semi-finals two years ago, Azerbaijan.
Penalties were needed then but on this occasion Portugal prevailed in 40 minutes to open Group D, a man injured last time around − Ricardinho − setting up two before his brilliant late clincher. Azerbaijan now cannot afford another loss here against Serbia on Friday.
Their 2010 meeting was thrilling and the excitement began early tonight, Felipe shooting over for Azerbaijan before himself blocking a João Matos effort. However, Azerbaijan goalkeeper Andrey Tveryankin, at 44 becoming the oldest ever player in a UEFA final tournament, was then beaten by Cardinal, having parried Ricardinho's effort.
Just 41 seconds of playing time elapsed before it was 2-0, Felipe inadvertently turning in a shot from the man he had frustrated not long before, Matos. Soon the deficit was halved, Thiago playing through Rajab Farajzade who, as he tumbled, slipped the ball under the body of João Benedito.
Portugal were still positive and Tveryankin smartly denied Marinho. The keeper was almost caught out by Matos but somehow the ball rolled across the face of goal. Chances kept coming at both ends and it was a surprise that it was still 2-1 at the break, both goalkeepers doing superbly.
They continued to do so after half-time, Benedito denying Vitaliy Borisov and straight up the other end Tveryankin frustrating Cardinal. Azerbaijan stepped up the pace but after some near misses Ricardinho, on the counter, set up Marinho for 3-1.
Jadder Dantas, the replacement for injured Biro Jade, was mighty close to pulling one back with ten minutes left but Portugal were not sitting on their lead. Matos slipped when he looked certain to claim Portugal's fourth, but Ricardinho came up trumps with a brilliant chip over the diving Tveryankin.
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