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Portugal reach first final on penalties

Azerbaijan 3-3 Portugal (Portugal win 5-3 on pens)
Portugal are through to Saturday's UEFA European Futsal Championship showpiece after knocking out debutants Azerbaijan.

Portugal celebrate reaching the final for the first time
Portugal celebrate reaching the final for the first time ©Sportsfile

Portugal are through to Saturday's UEFA European Futsal Championship final against holders Spain after knocking out debutants Azerbaijan on penalties.

The sides drew 3-3 in qualifying and the 40 minutes ended similarly, Portugal trailing at the break but scoring twice in a second-half minute, only for Biro Jade to instantly propel himself into joint-first place for the adidas Golden Boot with his fifth goal of the finals. However, in the shoot-out, Portugal won through to their first final thanks to five perfect strikes.

Azerbaijan ahead
Portugal were immediately on the attack, going close three times in the first 40 seconds, before a mis-hit Arnaldo effort fell to Pedro Cary, who had one shot blocked on the line by Felipe then a second stopped by Serjão. In the fourth minute, Azerbaijan coach Alesio, missing Alves due to a knee injury, deployed Biro Jade as flying goalkeeper in an attempt to relieve the pressure. It worked too, as now Portugal were chasing shadows as the opposition passed at will. In the eighth minute, after one such move, Serjão squared for Thiago to open the scoring.

Goal exchange
Perhaps Alesio should have stuck with the flying goalkeeper because after conventional No1 Andrey Tveryankin returned, Portugal resumed control, Arnaldo winning the ball and sending Cardinal clear to equalise. Azerbaijan were soon back in possession, though, Vitaliy Borisov nearly restoring the lead on three occasions before Serjão's incisive ball from deep found Felipe wide on the left and his shot flew past Bébé.

Frantic minute
The open nature of the game continued in the second half, with Rizvan Farzaliyev flicking a Thiago shot on to the post. Within six minutes of the restart, Portugal had committed their fifth foul of the half but not long afterwards they were level, Pedro Costa's shot turned in at the far post by Joaõ Matos. Thirty-five seconds later Pedro Costa put Portugal in front, pouncing after Cardinal's strike was only parried by Tveryankin. The lead lasted less than a minute, though, as Borisov played a corner back to Biro Jade to beat Bébé from ten metres.

Portugal prevail
Just as against Ukraine in the quarter-finals, Azerbaijan were going to penalties after a 3-3 draw, with Portugal keen to avoid their spot-kick fate at the hands of Spain at this stage in 2007. Bébé blocked Azerbaijan's second strike from Thiago and Gonçalo Alves converted the decisive spot-kick. Azerbaijan remain in Debrecen for Saturday's third-place play-off against the Czech Republic for which Biro Jade is suspended.