Selección Catalana have booked themselves a spot in next June's UEFA Regions' Cup finals after winning all three of their intermediary round Group 7 games in Ukraine.
The Spanish side needed just a point from their final match against mini-tournament hosts Nove Zhytya after seeing off Ardennes and Ljubljana, but they made it a clean sweep with a 4-1 victory that left coach Antonio Gallego delighted. "Of course we are happy to complete this really difficult task," he said. "Today we controlled the game, and even after conceding a goal we got everything back on track again very soon.
"None of the three games were easy. We only scored the winning goal against Ardennes in added time, while the Slovenians and Ukrainians also posed us a lot of problems. All my players did their best and fully deserve this success. Now we are among the eight best teams in the tournament and I'm looking forward to the finals."
Selección Catalana certainly did not have it all their own way in the section, and it was Enrique Gallego who struck three minutes into added time to get them off to a winning start against Ardennes on matchday one. That came after Mathieu Cornet had converted a penalty on the cusp of half-time for the Belgian hopefuls to cancel out Ramon Rovira's 40th-minute opener. Nove Zhytya enjoyed a far more comfortable first game, in contrast, Oleksandr Rysenko scoring either side of a Sergiy Kapustyan strike in their 3-0 defeat of Ljubljana.
The hosts nonetheless came unstuck against Ardennes in their next encounter as Christophe Martin found the net after ten minutes to secure a 1-0 success. That result left Ardennes with their own hopes of going through on the final day, though Ljubljana's hopes were extinguished with a game to spare as they suffered a 2-0 loss to Selección Catalana. Alejandro Cano and Boris Garros collected the goals to send Gallego's men top.
They then made sure of staying there with their most comprehensive performance of all against Nove Zhytya, Guillem Cornella opening the scoring with a superb free-kick after 29 minutes and delivering another set piece three minutes later which Cano turned in. The hosts reduced the deficit via Mykola Petrenko with a quarter of an hour to go – a minute after Selección Catalana had lost Gerard Puigoriol to a red card – but their comeback chances waned almost immediately as substitute Boris Garros responded.
The same player then registered his side's fourth in added time to complete the victory and guarantee their presence in next summer's final tournament. Meanwhile, the runners-up spot was taken by Ardennes as they edged Ljubjana 4-3 in their final outing, Aurélien Lambert scoring twice.
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