SL Benfica began their UEFA Futsal Cup defence with victory but KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac stole the Group A headlines while ElPozo Murcia FS took an early advantage in Group D.
Article top media content
Holders SL Benfica began their UEFA Futsal Cup defence with a narrow victory but the headlines in the two elite round groups beginning on Thursday were stolen by KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac, FK EP Chrudim and ElPozo Murcia FS.
Prior to these mini-tournaments beginning, Kairat Almaty and ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5 had booked their places in the late April finals. Benfica won their Group A opener 1-0 against MNK Nacional Zagreb but Serbian hosts Ekonomac starred with a 7-1 defeat of FC Time Lviv, while in Group D hosts Sporting Clube de Portugal were dramatically denied in a 4-4 draw with FK EP Chrudim while Murcia saw off City'us Târgu Mureş 6-0.
Ekonomac were first to kick off in Group A and stormed past a Lviv side that had the best overall record in the main round. After a nervy start, captain Vidan Bojović was the inspiration, and after his sixth-minute goal Ekonomac never looked back. They were four up by half-time and although Time never game up, the Ukrainian side had no response.
Home coach Ivan Božović said: "The margin of victory is perhaps too big, but we were definitely the better side. We started badly, but eventually it all came into place. We put on the pressure we wanted, which Time failed to handle properly, so we opened with two easy goals. After the convincing first half, the rest was easy."
Opposite number Stanislav Gonarchenko added: "It's hard to say something after such a defeat; we simply lost in every area. We played equally badly in defence and attack. We fell psychologically, while Ekonomac demonstrated a strong and fast-paced game, which could take them to the finals."
On Friday, Lviv must play a Benfica side for who a first-half Joel Queirós goal and calm defensive performance was enough for victory, though Nacional proved spirited opponents. Nacional will look to revive their campaign against Ekonomac.
Sporting are hoping to emulate Benfica in taking the trophy to Portugal but a Lukáš Rešetár goal with ten seconds left gave Czech champions Chrudim a 4-4 draw. The hosts in Lisbon had been 2-0 but Chrudim, inspired by Dentinho and Max, were level by the break and ahead just after. With Déo’s entrance crucial, Divanei and Leitão put Sporting back into the lead with five minutes to go. But Rešetár had the final word after Divanei's slip.
Orlando Duarte, the Sporting coach, said: "It was our own individual mistakes that made us pay dear. We conceded three goals, basically, in a stupid way. Ten seconds before the end we didn't deserve to concede an equaliser."
Murcia, runners-up in 2008, were only one up at the break against Romania's Târgu Mureş but after Vinicius struck on 21 minutes they swiftly moved towards a comfortable win. Coach Duda said: "We were patient and after stealing a ball we scored and it all got easier. At the beginning it took some time to adapt to the pitch because we are not used to it." His side could qualify a game early on Friday if they defeat Chrudim and Sporting do not defeat Târgu Mureş.