Franco Ballarini scored his third goal of the UEFA Regions' Cup finals to propel Veneto a step closer to Saturday's final as the hosts proved just a bit too strong for Qarachala in Group A.
Having scored two tap-ins in the opening 4-1 win against Eastern Region, Ballarini – on as a substitute – found the key to unlock the Azeri side on 65 minutes, getting his head to Michele Vettoretto's excellent cross from the left. He might have added to his tally as he found himself in almost the right place at the right time throughout the second period, and his side can now reach the decider in Abano Terme provided they avoid defeat against Keleti Régió on Thursday.
A great crowd turned out in Bagnoli di Sopra, but there were to be few thrills in the opening exchanges, though Silva Michel Pedrozo came close, having one shot saved by Umud Pashayev before a retreating defender blocked his second effort. The goalkeeper kept his side in the game thereafter, Roberto Poles, Matteo Scomparin and Pedrozo all having opportunities to turn the screw, while Qarachala struggled to build up any forward momentum.
On for Pedrozo, Ballarini spearheaded Veneto toward victory after the break, and the enterprising forward may wonder why he did not end up with more than one goal in an occasionally bruising encounter. Qarachala did not bow out of final contention meekly, but their final ball rarely matched their endeavour, though Sammy Durante was called into action to fend off Khatai Baghirov's effort from a corner.
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