South Region AMA of Russia have become the first team to reach next summer's UEFA Regions' Cup finals, with coach Aleksandr Boldyrev happy with his side's success in Group 7 in Poland.
South Region, based in the area surrounding Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, pipped mini-tournament hosts Małopolska AMA on goal difference to take top spot and the first available place in next June's finals, to be hosted by one of the eight qualifiers. Małopolska and South Region drew 1-1 in their opening fixture, with back-to-back 5-0 wins thereafter ensuring that Boldyrev's men prevailed.
"We appreciated the level of organisation at the tournament and the standard of our opponents," said the victorious coach as he looked ahead to the finals of the world's leading tournament for amateur footballers. "We started preparing for this competition in December 2009 and created a completely new team. We had a training camp before the tournament and went to Poland to win. I am glad we succeeded."
The opener in Libiaz was billed as the biggest game in the section, and looked to be going the hosts' way after captain Krzysztof Kusia scored from the spot just after the hour. However, Sergei Lednev struck back to earn a draw, while Helsinki AMA took an early lead in the table following a 3-2 comeback victory against their Belarusian opponents FC Azot.
However, the remainder of the competition was to be a goalscoring contest between the two top seeds. The 2005 finals hosts Małopolska beat Helsinki 4-1 on Matchday 2 as South Region crashed five past Azot, with a similar total against the ten-man Finnish side in their final fixture ensuring that Małopolska's 3-1 win against Azot was in vain.
The teams that join South Region in the finals will do well to keep a close watch on 21-year-old forward Lednev, who scored six times in 'Little Poland', including a hat-trick against Helsinki.
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