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Iberia Star progress to complete finals picture

Iberia Star Tbilisi completed the finals lineup by beating SL Benfica 7-4 to win elite round Group D and will compete with holders FC Barcelona, Kairat Almaty and MFK Dinamo in late April.

Iberia Star players (in white) celebrate their qualification
Iberia Star players (in white) celebrate their qualification ©Zurab Genguria

Iberia Star Tbilisi have completed the UEFA Futsal Cup finals lineup after sealing first place in elite round Group D.

The perennial Georgian champions, the only side to have entered all 12 editions of the competition, earned their finals debut thanks to three late goals in a 7-4 defeat of 2010 winners SL Benfica. Iberia Star will join holders FC Barcelona, Kairat Almaty and 2007 winners MFK Dinamo in the finals – to be staged by one of the four contenders – in late April, after the three other sides all secured their places on Saturday.

Only Group D stragglers Luparense C/5 began the day out of contention for top spot, and Győri ETO FC made sure they kept their qualification chances intact by downing the Italian club 3-2 in the early game in Tbilisi. Fábio Aguiar responded to Giovanni Pedotti's early opener for Luparense and added a second on 22 minutes, with Garrido Luque sealing the win after Gonzalo Abdala had levelled on the half-hour.

That result took Hungarian hopefuls Győr a point clear of Iberia Star and Benfica and needing a low-scoring draw between their rivals to remain top of the pile. It was not to be, however, as the duo went on to contest a thrilling encounter in the Georgian capital. Augusto put the hosts ahead with just over two minutes on the clock, and Romario restored their lead shortly after Marinho's 11th-minute equaliser.

After Teka proved unable to beat Iberia Star goalkeeper Celio from the penalty spot, Marinho fired the teams level again, but the home side ended the half two goals to the good as Rafa and Lúcio both struck. Champions in 2010, Benfica were not about to let their chance slip without a fight, though, and Marinho completed his hat-trick just after the restart before Nene made it 4-4.

Suddenly, the Portuguese outfit were in the driving seat and heading for the finals on goals scored in a three-way head-to-head with Iberia Star and Győr, but their situation soon unravelled. Marinho was dismissed with three minutes to go and Augusto converted the resultant penalty, with Rafa and Roninho both registering in the final minute to put the outcome beyond doubt. In the end, not even Romario's late dismissal was enough to take the sheen off a breakthrough triumph for Sergio Benatti's men.