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Elite round awaits super Sunday

KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac and holders SL Benfica both won in Group A and ElPozo Murcia FS and Sporting Clube de Portugal secured Group D victories to set up two Sunday deciders.

Sporting won to keep their hopes alive
Sporting won to keep their hopes alive ©Sporting Clube de Portugal

Victories on Friday for KMF Ekonomac Kragujevac, holders SL Benfica, ElPozo Murcia FS and Sporting Clube de Portugal ensured those four will play for the two remaining finals places in Sunday's elite round deciders.

Benfica dramatically won 2-1 against FC Time Lviv but remain second on goal difference in Group A behind Serbian hosts Ekonomac, 4-1 victors against MNK Nacional Zagreb. In Group D Murcia have six points after beating FK EP Chrudim 3-1 but hosts Sporting Clube de Portugal can still pip the Spanish side following their 4-1 win against City'us Târgu Mureş.

Ekonomac, who defeated Time 7-1 on Thursday to begin their campaign in style, kept up their form against a Nacional side only beaten 1-0 by Benfica. Cheered on by a packed 3,700 crowd, Ekonomac had already hit the woodwork more than once before Predrag Rajić and Slobodan Rajčević made it 2-0 in the first half although Goran Ugarković revived spirited Nacional's hopes, those were dashed late on by Mladen Kocić and Ivan Marinković.

Vidan Bojović, the Ekonomac captain, said: "It was a great game, competitive for the whole 40 minutes, primarily because we missed many chances. We conceded a goal, after which we had some good fortune, which favours the brave, because afterwards we scored two goals which were totally deserved."

Nacional coach Marinko Mavrović added: "This was an interesting match in a pakced hall, we would have had this atmosphere in Zagreb too, but to our advantage. The aim was to give our best and I can not be dissatisfied with what my players showed."

Time's disciplined performance against Benfica seemed to be rewarded when Serhiy Yakunin's penalty gave them a 32nd-minute lead. But within a minute Joel Queirós had levelled from the spot and although both he and Diece were then unsuccessful with double penalties, Pedro Costa struck with three seconds to on the clock in an end-to-end move to settle a tense game. However Benfica must beat Ekonomac to make it to the finals on Sunday.

Over in Lisbon, Murcia, having beaten City'us Târgu Mureş 6-0 yesterday, secured a 3-1 win against FK EP Chrudim, who had previously held Sporting 4-4 with a last-gasp equaliser. Vinicius struck early for the Spanish side, runners-up in 2008, and not long after the break Dentinho put through an own goal. Mauricio made it three before Michal Mareš's late consolation for the now eliminated Czech team.

Murcia coach Duda said: "It was a hard game for us against a skilful team. In the second half we conceded too many fouls and against the flying keeper we had more trouble but we showed that we were strong and now have the advantage for the last match against Sporting."

Sporting now needed to win to keep their campaign alive. First-half goals from Joaõ Matos, Alex and Marcelo Silva putthem in control at the break against Romania's City'us Târgu Mureş, who pulled one back after using a flying goalkeeper but at the end Cardinal chipped into an empty net. Orlando Duarte's team must beat Murcia on Sunday to pip them to first place.

Duarte said: "No one can doubt that we were superior. Sporting showed a different image, a better one. We were good in attack in the first half and in defence in the second." Kairat Almaty and ASD Città di Montesilvano C/5 are already through to the finals in late April.