Sporting CP, previously beaten in three UEFA Futsal Cup finals including the last two, won the rebranded UEFA Futsal Champions League in 2018/19.
Article top media content
The rebranding of the UEFA Futsal Cup to the UEFA Futsal Champions League for 2018/19 certainly suited Sporting CP.
Beaten in the 2017 and 2018 finals by Inter FS, having also fallen at the last fence in 2011, Sporting belatedly emulated 2010 victors Benfica by bringing the title to Lisbon. They did so in Almaty too, scene of their near-misses in 2011 and 2017, and took out Inter in the semis before overcoming hosts Kairat for the trophy.
Having won the last two editions of the UEFA Futsal Cup, and a record five overall, Inter had been keen to be the first club crowned European champions three years in a row, as the rebranded competition began with the same new format introduced the previous season.
They, fellow former winners Kairat, Barça, Ugra Yugorsk and Benfica, plus Sporting, all made it safely through to the elite round together with Italian debutants A&S Futsal Pescara and the first Lithuanian side to get that far, Vytis. Inter, Barça and Kairat then progressed to the finals with three perfect wins, while Sporting pipped Benfica on goal difference following a pulsating 1-1 draw in the Portuguese rivals' first European meeting.
Kairat – in the final four for a record eighth time – were picked to host, bringing the event to Almaty Arena for the second time in three years. That's where Inter had beaten Sporting 7-0 in the 2017 final but the tables were turned in the 2019 semis as the Lisbon team dethroned the holders 5-3, aided by a Dieguinho hat-trick. It ended Inter's competition-best run of 19 straight wins, including their 2016/17 and 2017/18 successes.
Could that leave the door open for Barça? No, because Kairat – much changed from the squad under Cacau that won in 2013 and 2015 and also reached the semis in 2017 – triumphed 5-2 in front of a new competition-record crowd of 12,090. Barça, at least, then beat Inter – becoming the first club to play a 76th European game, one clear of EP Chrudim – 3-1 for bronze.
That match was watched by 7,031 fans, the most for any game in this competition not involving the host club, and the 11,973 that saw the final was also a record, as was the aggregate attendance of 37,794. However, things did not go to plan for the home fans as Sporting's Italian duo Cavinato and Alex Merlim struck early in the second half, and although Douglas Junior pulled one back in the 38th minute, Kairat fell 2-1.
Sporting, who had also been watched by a big crowd in their home Pavilhão João Rocha when they had edged out Benfica six months earlier, had the European title they wanted. Things had, at last, fallen into place for the club that hosted the finals of the first UEFA Futsal Cup in 2001/02.