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Italy comeback fails to deny Russia top spot

Russia 2-2 Italy
Italy levelled from two down but, despite mounting incessant pressure, could not prevent their fellow quarter-finalists from winning Group C.

Aleksandr Fukin celebrates with goalkeeper Gustavo after rifling Russia in front
Aleksandr Fukin celebrates with goalkeeper Gustavo after rifling Russia in front ©Sportsfile

Italy recovered from two down to draw with Russia in UEFA Futsal EURO 2012 Group C but were pipped to top spot on goal difference.

Russia knew anything other than defeat by their fellow quarter-finalists would allow them to stay in Split to face Serbia on Tuesday. They seemed set for three points when Aleksandr Fukin and Sergei Sergeev struck before the break, only for Gabriel Lima and Fortino to prevent the Azzurri's first loss in 16 matches.

Gustavo, making his full UEFA European Futsal Championship debut, calmed any personal nerves with a third-minute save from Humberto Honorio. Moments later his side were ahead through Fukin. Loitering on the Italy right, he seized on Pula's poked pass and beat Stefano Mammarella.

If the goal punctured a tentative start, openings soon presented themselves more frequently. Dmitri Prudnikov was centimetres away from a superb solo effort having waltzed around Vampeta, before Gustavo repelled Luca Ippoliti.

Russia were the more menacing, though, and three minutes before the break Sergeev slammed Konstantin Maevski's lay-off across Mammarella. Before that, only the backtracking Sergio Romano cleared Cirilo's attempt off the line.

Fifty-three seconds after the restart Italy were back in it thanks to Lima. Rested in the first half in fear of him receiving a booking which would rule him out of the quarter-finals, he instantly turned in Honorio's cross. Suddenly it was different game. The sliding Gustavo, 33 today, foiled Vampeta on the break and then stopped Lima's volley and Honorio in a one-on-one situation in a matter of minutes.

The 2003 winners deservedly levelled when Fortino bundled in Marcio Forte's kick-in ten minutes from time. Though Saad Assis hit a post and Ippoliti was deployed as a flying goalkeeper, Italy could not find a third and now travel to face Portugal in Zagreb in two days' time.