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Ruthless Russia dash Croatia's final hopes

Published: Thursday 9 February 2012, 19.53CET
Croatia 2-4 Russia
Three first-half goals ensured a late home comeback could not prevent Russia reaching a fourth final in front of a record 14,300 crowd.
by Wayne Harrison
from Arena Zagreb
  
Published: Thursday 9 February 2012, 19.53CET

Ruthless Russia dash Croatia's final hopes

Croatia 2-4 Russia
Three first-half goals ensured a late home comeback could not prevent Russia reaching a fourth final in front of a record 14,300 crowd.

Russia are through to the final of the UEFA European Futsal Championship for the fourth time after a devastating display of finishing in front of a competition record 14,300 crowd ended the hopes of hosts Croatia.

Goals in the first 16 minutes from Dmitri Prudnikov, Cirilo and Sergei Abramov put the 1999 champions in control and Pula capped a clinical performance early in the second half. Dario Marinović pulled two back but Croatia must now focus on the third-place play-off here on Saturday, after which Russia will play one of the only two other past champions, Italy or Spain, for the title.

Croatia's penalty shoot-out hero in the quarter-finals, Ivo Jukić, was beaten inside 35 seconds when Prudnikov ran onto Sergei Sergeev's ball down the channel and clipped the ball into the far corner. It was the first time the hosts had been behind in the tournament.

Inspired by the raucous atmosphere, Croatia responded well. Gustavo saved from Jakov Grcić before Marinović − an injury doubt before the match − tricked his way through a couple of challenges and shot wide. However, Cirilo, from Aleksandr Fukin's threaded pass, beat Jukić first time in the sixth minute.

Russia were not having it all their own way − Gustavo thwarted Duje Bajrušović − but they were lethal whenever chances of their own arose. Four and half minutes before the break, Abramov tucked in the rebound after Jukić had parried from Sergeev.

Stanković sent his charges out for the second half a couple of minutes early but it failed to elicit the desired response − only 41 seconds had elapsed when Pula extended Russia's lead after Jukić had blocked Cirilo. Marinović offered hope five minutes later when Gustavo parried Saša Babić's shot on to the crossbar.

With five minutes left Tihomir Novak was deployed as a flying goalkeeper and Marinović swiftly scored again, his shot slipping under Gustavo's dive. In a closing spell that had the crowd on their feet, Grcić, Marinović and Novak all hit a post, but Russia held on.

Last updated: 16/01/14 17.09CET

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