Privolzhie AMA will become the first Russian side to compete in the UEFA Regions' Cup finals next summer after finishing top of Intermediate round Group 5 on home soil and attracting three four-figure crowds.
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Having beaten Belarussian side Gantsevichi City Brest Region AMA 6-1 in their opening game, a 5-2 defeat of Turkey's Marmara Region Team AMA on Matchday 2 secured qualification with a game to spare. They celebrated with a closing 2-0 win against EPS Larisas AMA of Greece.
Supported by 1,800 fans in Nizhniy Novgorod's Severnyi Stadium, Privolzhie actually fell behind against Brest to a Dzmitry Homza goal midway through the first half but a Raman Zayats own goal pulled them level and Alexander Kochenenko put them ahead before Konstantin Smirnov converted a penalty on the stroke of the interval. Substitute Ilia Bolshakov struck twice after the break before Ruslan Amanov made it 6-1. Before the opening game, Larisas had only arrived at 2am due to travel problems but went ahead on 29 minutes against Marmara through Georgios Kakavitsis only for Erdogan Varli to swiftly equalise for a 1-1 draw.
Two days later Brest bounced back from their opening defeat to beat Larisas 2-0 with first-half efforts by Mikalai Simanovich and Aliaksei Sukach. That meant Privolzhie knew victory would take them to the finals and although they again conceded first to Marmara's Metin Caliskan, Pavel Mikrukov quickly levelled, Anton Khairov scored on the stroke of half-time and Bolshakov again managed two goals either side of am Ilia Egorov effort.
Burak Akalp pulled one back late on, but Dmitry Golubev's side were through and the coach said: "Like in our first game we made the same mistake in defence and it was our opponents that opened the scoring again. The first goal against our team served as a wake-up call and our players started to play more actively and we accomplished our aim a long time before the final whistle. Regarding the final tournament, I can say that we have never participated in an event of this high standard. We will analyse the performance of our team at this tournament very thoroughly and then we will start our preparation for the finals next year. I know that it will not be easy for us."
Alexei Pasechnik's two goals against Larisas ensured a perfect finish for Privolzhie in front of a third four-figure crowd while Preliminary round winners Marmara claimed second place by defeating Brest, and coach Müjdat Yetkiner mused: "Our players made some mistakes and maybe the coaches did too. Some of our players will leave the team. Maybe we will look for younger players and we will prepare new young talented players for the next edition of the UEFA Regions' Cup. I think that the spectators enjoyed our play and the matches of other teams."
Finishing third, Brest coach Andrei Zhalezny said: "I would like to thank UEFA for organising the Regions' Cup. Due to our team's participation in this competition in recent years, we had five or six players that were transferred to higher leagues and even the top Belarussian league. I hope that this competition is organised for many years to come." Larisas chief Ilias Selionis added: "It is very important that the UEFA Regions' Cup exists, because it gives one more opportunity to amateur players from different countries not only to play, but also to make new friendships, exchange views and get to know new cultures. These impressions could last a lifetime. I would like to thank UEFA for supporting amateur football, because this is very important."