A trio of victories and a second three-goal haul in as many days ensured Team Ankara of Turkey became the sixth side to qualify for the UEFA Regions' Cup finals in Portugal.
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Team Ankara became the sixth team to qualify for the UEFA Regions' Cup finals after a convincing win against Slovenian intermediary round Group 4 hosts MNZ Murska Sobota.
The Turkish outfit required at least a point from their final match of the tournament in Verzej and they duly booked their ticket to the Minho region in the north of Portugal between 21 and 28 June with their second three-goal haul in as many days.
After going down to ten men in their opening match, Ankara needed a last-minute winner by Taha Derin to overcome FC Carmiel Safed of Israel 1-0 on Tuesday. But the subsequent 3-0 defeat of South East Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – like Ankara and Carmiel Safed preliminary round qualifiers – was more assured.
Saturday's 3-1 success then put paid to the qualifying hopes of MNZ Murska Sobota, who were cheered on by a vociferous 400-strong home crowd, hoping their side could get the win they needed to finish top, having drawn 1-1 with South East FYROM and beaten Carmiel Safed 3-1.
Fatih Deniz, who was twice on target against South East FYROM, scored in between Atila Çetin's two strikes and Zoran Horvat's consolation strike for the hosts. With a further two assists to his name the Ankara left winger was undoubtedly one of the stars of the tournament. South East FYROM defeated Carmiel Safed 2-0 to finish behind the second-placed hosts on goal difference.
"You could see that we were the best team here," said Ankara coach Hames Sentürk, who enthusiastically joined in the post-match celebrations with his elated players. "I'm proud of my side, I'm happy that we were here in Slovenia where the tournament was organised to near perfection. Now we are going to Portugal for the final phase of the Regions' Cup and I'm sure that we can win the tournament there too."
In the finals Ankara join hosts Braga, Germany's Württembergischer FV, Irish representatives Leinster & Munster, South Region of Russia and Ukrainian side Yednyst Plysky. Two more teams will qualify after tournaments in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic this month with the draw in Braga on 11 May.