"The key to our strength is the technical ability of our team," beamed Mustafa Özer as success in Malta booked Ankara's place in the UEFA Regions' Cup finals.
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Ankara will represent Turkey at the 2015 UEFA Regions' Cup finals after coming through intermediary round Group 6 in Malta with a 100% record.
Arguably, Mustafa Özer's side did the hardest part of their job on the opening day, securing a 2-1 win against Oleg Sanko's South Region Russia – who they had met in the 2011 finals, with an identical result. Volkan Solac and Samet Dağli struck before the break as Gökhan Demircan marshaled midfield, and while substitute Sergei Obernibesov struck from the penalty spot at the death, the die was cast.
An 82nd-minute Obernibesov penalty secured South Region a 1-0 win agains Vaasa in the second game, the Finnish contenders having lost to home side Gozo in the opening game – Thiago Melo and Michael Bezzina the scorers in a game which thrilled coach Eddie Vella. "At this point, I am really confident that we can qualify," he told UEFA.com. "Vaasa were very difficult opponents so we are now in a better position to challenge for the top spot."
However, that dream was soon shattered, Gökhan Demircan once more the instigator as Ankara beat Gozo 2-1; Muzaffer Ilhna and Nuri Kunduz scoring before a Claudio Pavlidis free-kick gave the Maltese side something to chase in the last 18 minutes. Coach Özer – a former Turkish international midfielder – told UEFA.com: "I am very happy with the way my team played. The key to our strength is the technical ability of our team."
That victory meant Ankara were through to the finals on head-to-head record and celebrated with a 1-0 win against Vaasa – Fatih Ekşioğlu the scorer two minutes from time. South Region, meanwhile, vented their frustration at missing out with a 3-1 win against Gozo.
The 2015 final tournament will be staged next June by one of the eight teams who qualify.
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