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Sporting squeeze through to finals

Sporting Clube de Portugal reached their second straight UEFA Futsal Cup finals, but the Group C hosts had to work hard to earn a 5-5 draw against Iberia Star Tbilisi in their last game.

João Benedito celebrates Sporting's dramatic qualification for the finals
João Benedito celebrates Sporting's dramatic qualification for the finals ©Sporting Clube de Portugal

Sporting Clube de Portugal are through to their second straight UEFA Futsal Cup finals after making sure of first place as elite round Group C hosts with a dramatic 5-5 draw against Iberia Star Tbilisi.

City'US Târgu Mureş's 8-3 win against Győri ETO FC in the early game eased Sporting's nerves, as it meant the Hungarian side could not deny them or Iberia top spot. But the tension was soon skyrocketing at the Pavilhão Multiusos Odivelas, with Iberia, aiming to reach their first finals having been the only team in all 11 European seasons,  taking a 3-0 half-time lead through strikes from Bruno Melo and Luiz Baptista followed by a João Matos own goal.

Normal service was resumed after the break, though. Marcelinho scored within 42 seconds of the restart, and while Luiz Baptista replied for Iberia, Déo struck twice either side of an Alex effort to make it 4-4. Daniel Sakai restored Iberia's advantage with four minutes to go, but Leitão made it 5-5 to ensure that the group was settled without recourse to goal difference.

"We felt that we deserved to progress as we were the better team," said Sporting coach Orlando Duarte. "Iberia tried to defend their lead, but we would have won the match by a good distance had we not made so many mistakes in attack. I have to salute the teams who played here and also this fantastic crowd; they were wonderful."

Earlier, a skilful Târgu Mureş forged a 3-0 half-time lead against Győr, and while the Hungarian side reduced the arrears to 3-2 after the break, they wilted in the closing stages, Csoma Alpar their tormentor-in-chief with three goals. The Romanian side might have feared the worst when Murilo Filho was sent off on 29 minutes, but Győr captain Ioan Al-Ioani was dismissed three minutes later.

In the finals in late April, to be hosted by one of the four contenders, Sporting will meet three sides to be decided when the remaining groups conclude on Sunday.

Group C final standings

Sunday fixtures