Image credit: David Kagramanyan
Western Armenia progressed to the semi-finals of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup after a 1-1 draw with Padania, which sends the holders out of the competition at the group stage.
This much-anticipated Group B encounter in Stepanakert was tantalisingly poised, with both sides level on points and goal difference heading into the fixture. Padania knew they needed a win to progress, whilst Western Armenia needed only a draw, courtesy of their superior number of goals scored.
The first half was one of few clear-cut chances, with speculative shots from distance representing the majority of both sides’ attempts on goal. Tempers were beginning to fray between the sides, with three yellow cards awarded as both sets of players struggled to find an early breakthrough.
Western Armenia had the best opportunities, with Raffi Kaya blazing over from an inviting free kick delivery, and an incredible double save by Federico Delfrate in the Padania goal after Arman Aslanyan’s cross caused all sorts of problems.
The crowd favourites stepped up the pressure early in the second half with Aslanyan scuffing his shot from point blank range, with the goal at his mercy. Delfrate also made another wonder save from a Davit Hovsepyan header which was destined for the top corner.
With the score still locked at 0-0 midway through the second period, the match exploded into life. First, Artur Yedigaryan crashed in a powerful strike from the edge of the box to put Western Armenia in front. Less than a minute later, Padania went up the other end of the pitch and got back on terms immediately. Nicolo Colombo headed home from close range to make for a nail-biting conclusion.
Padania piled bodies forward in search of a winner but couldn’t find a way past Gevorg Kasparov. The Western Armenia keeper produced a superb save from Alessandro Moretti. Western Armenia failed to capitalise on several counter attacks, but in the end the point was enough to take them through to the knockout phase. And Padania will take their place in the placement games of the tournament for the first time ever, having won the two previous European Football Cups.