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UEFA Futsal Champions League semi-final round-up: Sporting and Barça set up final repeat

Holders Sporting CP beat ACCS 6-2 and then Barça defeated Benfica late in extra time to set up a 2021 final rematch in Riga on Sunday.

Alex Merlim scored two to help holders Sporting into the final
Alex Merlim scored two to help holders Sporting into the final SPORTSFILE

Sporting CP and Barça will meet for the second final running after an exciting day of last-four action at Arena Riga.

Holders Sporting had to work to defeat ACCS Asnières Villeneuve 92 6-2 to keep up their bid for a third title in four years and then Benfica went three up only for Barça to recover and eventually win 5-4 at the end of extra time. Now they will look to avenge their 4-3 defeat in the 2021 decider by Sporting.

Matches at Arena Riga

Friday 29 April:
Semi-finals
ACCS Asnières Villeneuve 92 2-6 Sporting CP 
Benfica 4-5 Barça (aet) 

Sunday 1 May:
Third-place play-off
ACCS Asnières Villeneuve 92 vs Benfica (14:00 CET)
Final
Barça vs Sporting CP (17:00 CET)

Local time in Riga is 1 hour ahead of CET

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ACCS 2-6 Sporting CP 

Futsal Champions League semi-final highlights: ACCS 2-6 Sporting CP
Futsal Champions League semi-final highlights: ACCS 2-6 Sporting CP

Holders Sporting are into their fifth final in six seasons but were pushed all the way by the first French team to feature at this stage. Cardinal and Diego Cavinato both hit the post early on, and the pressure told as recent Sporting signing Esteban, on his European debut, turned in Erick's corner with a long-range low shot.

Ricardinho, playing a deep role for ACCS, almost set up Landry N'Gala with a long ball but it was the French side's goalkeeper Careca who was having to keep Sporting at bay. He was beaten twice more in the first half, Tomás Paço heading in Miguel Ângelo's chipped cross and Alex Merlim striking after Zicky's pass. However, Pany Varela was sent off before the break for a raised arm to Bolinha and within seconds Nelson Lutin pulled one back.

Merlim focused on 'main objective'
Merlim focused on 'main objective'

ACCS were looking much stronger after this but early in the second half Zicky robbed the ball and set up Diego Cavinato to make it 4-1. Still ACCS kept pressing an Salah Galmim turned the ball in after a nice exchange between Ricardinho and flying keeper N'Gala. Merlim, though, showed good footwork to get his second of the game, and Cardinal converted a penalty he won himself to confirm Sporting's progress.

Key stat: Sporting captain João Matos set a new record of 16 finals appearances while coach Nuno Dias became the first to lead a single club 50 times in this competition.

Alex Merlim, Sporting goalscorer: "We're through to the final and we fully deserved the win against a spirited ACCS team who never gave up. I think we played well and I'm really happy to have scored twice as that helped us to achieve our objective. Now we need to rest and prepare for the final. I feel that this team have what it takes to win the title once again."

Ricardinho 'proud' of ACCS performance
Ricardinho 'proud' of ACCS performance

Ricardinho, ACCS player: "The dream was to be here at these finals and not to get to the final. We knew just how hard it was going to be and we gave it our best. Sporting were better and deserved the result but I think we can leave with our heads held high because we gave it our all. Above all, I'm proud that this team reached this stage and was able to compete against the best. I hope they take this as experience so they can understand that we still have a lot to develop until we're actually good enough.

"People are used to seeing Ricardinho scoring bicycle kicks and all that, but even at the Futsal World Cup, it was already different. After my injury, I had to adapt to a different type of movement. I was able to fulfil my dream of becoming world champion and winning an individual award. Above all, in these types of matches, when you play against people who have more quality than you in general, you have to know how to adapt, you have to sacrifice yourself, you have to defend, and you have to position yourself differently. That's what I tried to do. I tried to give everything for the team because this group of players deserve it, because of the sacrifice and struggles we had during the season."

Where to watch the games: TV/streams
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Benfica 4-5 Barça (aet) 

Futsal Champions League semi-final highlights: Benfica 4-5 Barça (aet)
Futsal Champions League semi-final highlights: Benfica 4-5 Barça (aet)

Benfica were ahead in the first minute, Hossein Tayebi converting a penalty after Barça goalkeeper Didac Plana fouled Vinicius Rocha. Midway through the half there was a second for Benfica as Vinicius Rocha advanced down the left and smashed the ball past Didac Plana. Then late came a seemingly crucial moment as Marcênio hit the woodwork with the goal at his mercy and Benfica went straight up the other end, Robinho setting up Afonso Jesus to make it 3-0.

Just 21 seconds after the break, Barça had one back as Matheus Rodrigues's shot deflected off the post and into the goal off luckless keeper André Sousa. He redeemed himself with an incredible point-blank double save to deny a stunned Ferrao, but he was to beat the keeper with a strong back-heel, ensuring he equalled injured club-mate Esquerdinha's record of ten career finals goals. And with less then six minutes left, Dyego cut back and equalised with an angled shot.

Barcelona enjoy their victory
Barcelona enjoy their victorySPORTSFILE

Shortly afterwards Barça had a ten-metre penalty but Sergio Lozano hit the post. However, in the 38th minute, Dyego struck again and seemed to have won it. But seconds later Chishkala, deployed as flying keeper, levelled following Robinho's pass. In extra time Matheus Rodrigues was twice denied by André Sousa, but just 18 seconds remained when Adolfo found the target for a dramatic winner.

Key stat: Barça equal the record of Inter FS, FC Dynamo and Sporting by reaching a third final in a row.

Ferrao: 'It was an epic semi-final'
Ferrao: 'It was an epic semi-final'

Ferrao, Barça goalscorer: "Epic, just epic! We knew it was going to be difficult but we never expected to be three goals down at half-time. Our team never stopped believing that it was possible to stage a comeback and we were rewarded for that belief. Benfica were defending deep and the game was very tight so I had to try something different and I am so happy it worked! Now we face Sporting in the final and we will try to make up for last season’s defeat. It will be an amazing match for sure and we can’t wait to be part of it."

Vinicius Rocha, Benfica goalscorer: "To tell you the truth I still can’t believe that we lost. I’m a bit lost for words and it’s really hard to accept that we’re not in the final. Everything seemed to be going our way but than all of a sudden everything changed. But that’s futsal. We left it all out there on the pitch but this just wasn’t our night. I can’t even think about the third place match right now but we’ll have to find a way to recover from this huge setback."