Franco Ballarini's tenth-minute header helped propel Veneto into the UEFA Regions' Cup final as Group A winners at Keleti Régió's expense, but it was to be a bittersweet experience for the wily No3.
Ballarini scored his fourth goal of the finals, darting across the box to glance Francesco Gasperato's corner from the left past Róbert Makó. However, the 26-year-old's booking on the stroke of half-time means that the hosts' top scorer will be absent for Saturday's showpiece, where they tackle Selección Catalana, looking to become the first side to win Europe's top competition for amateur players twice.
A stylish, accomplished side, Veneto looked to be in for an easy ride after Ballarini's early breakthrough, with injured Keleti Régió goalkeeper Makó substituted soon after. However, they were never allowed to settle by their confrontational Hungarian opponents, Krisztián Less smashing one effort over the bar on 40 minutes before Balázs Pálvölgyi hooked wide after chasing down a long ball over the top.
Igor Furlan might have settled some nerves early in the second half as he latched on to another searching Gasperato ball, but he could not keep his volley on target. Paolo De Carli soon had to save from László Lakatos as Keleti Régió insinuated themselves in from the right.
The dismissal of András Fodor for a second caution on 62 minutes should have eased the pressure, but if anything it intensified further, Keleti Régió's ten men doing the running of 12 as they sought the win that would put them in the final. Less bruised De Carli's palms with a cannonball free-kick, Bálint Benke miscued with just the goalkeeper to beat, with the trail going worryingly cold at the other end.
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