Kairat Almaty's brave fightback earned plaudits from both coaches yet the overriding feeling in the Sporting Clube de Portugal camp was that their 3-2 semi-final victory was deserved.
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Sporting Clube de Portugal coach Orlando Duarte paid tribute to vanquished hosts Kairat Almaty after the Lisbon team's thrilling 3-2 victory in Friday's opening UEFA Futsal Cup semi-final at the Baluan Sholak Sport Palace.
After Sporting snatched the win through Caio Japa's strike four minutes from time, Duarte joined his goalkeeper, man of the match Cristiano, in praising a Kairat side who had battled back from two goals down in front of their supporters. João Carlos Barbosa, the Almaty coach, certainly had cause to regret the last of the five second-half scores, yet for Sporting's Cristiano it sealed a merited victory for the Lions.
Orlando Duarte, Sporting coach
We played against a really strong team tonight. They gave everything and we did too because we want to win this competition. We knew quite a bit about them but it was more important that we played our game rather than worrying about them. We came here in good shape and we showed our quality to take our place in the final. We'll do the same again on Sunday.
It was just what we expected from Kairat, who have some excellent players like Kelson and the goalkeeper Jeronimo. They are well-organised but we had enough to win on the night and we are delighted. At half-time we regrouped and tried to stick to our futsal principles. We want to win our way, whatever the opposition. And while you could say that some of our goals came from mistakes, you have to create situations and mistakes that you can take advantage of.
João Carlos Barbosa, Kairat coach
Congratulations to Sporting who showed a lot of quality out there. We didn't play well first half, but we showed character to get it back to 2-2. However, once we equalised then the team, as can happen, breathed again and that's why we conceded the third. That's what I regret. Yet you have to credit their goalkeeper Cristiano for the saves he made. On Sunday against Benfica we'll have another go. This was the big game for us but unfortunately it's gone and now we focus on the next big match. My players are great professionals and they never lacked the right application out there. In fact they showed great pride.
Cristiano, Sporting goalkeeper
The skipper, João Benedito, and I have a good rivalry for the goalkeeper's shirt – he's world class – so when I play I have to be on my game. Today I think I did well and as a team we achieved what we wanted by reaching the final. You could say it was one of my best performances given what was at stake, a place in a European final. Kairat did well to take advantage of a slight lull in our play, but we didn't drop off and we went and got the third goal immediately. Overall we deserved to win because of the standard of our play, although it was a tough game physically.