Szekely Land 0 – 5 Western Armenia
By Liam Potter
Western Armenia romped to a 5-0 win in a fiercely contested match against Szekely Land in Askeran.
Zaven Badoyen opened the scoring in the opening 20 minutes. The lively forward got on the end of a dangerous cross, before turning his man and rolling the ball into the bottom corner.
As heavy challenges flew in, it was Western Armenia who took control of the game and had the better of the chances. However, on the half-hour mark Szekely Land were given a lifeline when Kovacs Botond was fouled in the area. Joszef Gaeda stepped up but his tame effort was saved by the Western Armenia goalkeeper.
Early in the second half, Western Armenia were themselves awarded a penalty. There was to be no mistake this time, though, as Darit Hovsepyan cooly placed the ball into the bottom corner from the spot.
Despite the sweltering Askeran heat pushing 30 degrees, the game continued to be played with a ferocious intensity. Szekely Land’s sporadic breaks were met by swift counterattacks as the game opened up midway through the second half.
Elod Tanico was caught on the break and pulled back his man – and a red card was shown. Western Armenia, one man and two goals to the good, were in firm control of the game. They grabbed their third goal through Vazdan Bakalyan, who tapped into an open net on 70 minutes.
10 minutes later, Western Armenia grabbed their fourth through Darit Minasyan before Arman Aslanyan got the fifth to secure the win in front of an excited crowd. The forward rolled the ball under the Szekely Land goalkeeper to seal a comfortable win.
Sapmi 0 – 1 Abkhazia
By Alun Macer-Wright
Abkhazia ground out a scrappy victory over a spirited Sapmi side to record their second win at the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019.
The Vigen Shirinyan Stadium in Martakert hosted its second match of the tournament, with a boisterous set of fans loudly cheering on both sets of players.
The first half was a cagey affair with both sides struggling to string passes together, and few sights of goal. The heat and the dry pitch appeared to be affecting both sides.
Abkhazia grew in confidence, with Timur Agrba having a shot blocked on the line after Sapmi keeper Alexander Ellingsen came rushing out of goal. They eventually broke the deadlock at the end of the half with a powerful header by Georgiy Dgebuagze from Viktor Pimpya’s free kick on the stroke of half time.
The match seemed to be getting away from Sapmi, with three of their players leaving the pitch through injury, and some heroic last-ditch defending from the Scandinavians, including a great reaction save by Ellingsen from Lev Baburin’s header. They struggled to provide a threat themselves, with Mihael Junnok’s tame effort their best chance of an equaliser early in the second half.
An opening didn’t materialise, and Dmitry Maskaev curled a shot past the post which would have put the game to bed for Abkhazia in stoppage time in the final moments.
The former World Football Cup champions are staking a claim for more silverware, built on a strong defensive foundation, which will be further tested against hosts Artsakh. Sapmi know that their campaign is most likely over, after two agonisingly narrow defeats.
Chameria 4 – Artsakh 1
By Claudio Cavallo
In front of a big crowd at Martuni Stadium, the hosts Artsakh faced off against Chameria. Artsakh were riding high after their victory in the opening game against Sapmi, while Chameria were looking for their first ever win in a CONIFA tournament, having lost their first game against Abkhazia.
The game started slowly, and stayed that way for most of the first half, no doubt due to the high temperatures out on the pitch (30°C). On balance, the home side came closest to scoring on a few occasions, but the Chamerian keeper ensured the score remained 0-0. Artsakh looked the better side during the first half, but Chameria came closest with a shot from 25 meters from Kryemadhi.
The second half upped the temperature. Both teams created chance after chance but nothing was converted, until Chameria took the lead. A shot deflected on the right-hand side was rifled in by Çema, who sends Chameria 1-0 up.
From this moment on, Artsakh created several chances to equalise, but with no success. On the 64th minute, Artsakh’s Malyaka received a green card, which forced him to be substituted. The same happened to Chameria’s Izanami, who received a green card and was subbed off after a bad challenge.
Artsakh continued to push up, but Chameria were able to hold them off. On the 83rd minute, Kryemadhi received a green card for a foul on the edge of the area – but having no more subs, Chameria went down to 10 men. From the following free kick Artsakh equalised with a majestic shot from Saroyan – and the home fans could finally celebrate! However, their delight didn’t last long; two minutes later, Chameria found a way to the goal with an easy tap-in from Mitzi.
With the last of their energy, Artsakh tried to find an equaliser – but Chameria had a huge chance to go 3-1 up when in the 90th minute Çema was taken down by the Artsakh keeper. Penalty for the men in white… but keeper Ghazvanid went left and stopped the shot. But Artsakh’s hopes don’t stay high for long: in the 93rd minute Çema scored a brace with an amazing chip. And in the 95th minute, there is glory for Gjoka, who scores to make it 4-1. This resounding result concluded the first ever win for Chameria in a CONIFA tournament.
South Ossetia 2-1 Padania
By Olaf Jensen
Much-fancied Padania fell to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of a South Ossetia side blessed with attacking talent in a bad-tempered fixture.
An early foul on Padania’s veteran midfielder Andrea Rota set the tone for the match, producing a yellow card for the South Ossetian captain Kabulov within one minute.
But South Ossetia also produced moments of brilliance, with pacy winger Batradz Gurtiev making powerful runs, putting in laser-accurate crosses and creating space for the likes of Kastasaev, Dzagoev and Bazaev to pepper the Padanian goal with shots.
Padania struggled to create anything. Their attempts to build from the back were smothered by the robust South Ossetian defence, leading them to make increasingly petulant tackles – returned in kind by their opponents.
They threatened most from set-pieces, with Dario Antonio Mastrototaro three times spearing free-kicks narrowly over the bar.
As the half closed, tackles were flying, and Giorgio Belotti came off injured. This seemed to rattle the Padanians, and a late period of Ossetian pressure nearly cost them. The teams went into the break level.
Minutes into the second half, South Ossetia were already clearly on the front foot. Despite a few more Padanian attempts from set pieces, Gurtsiev was an immovable presence on the left wing, seizing the ball and making lancing runs down the flank – it was this way that he gave South Ossetia the lead with a low shot from the right-hand side.
The match became more ill-tempered as the half progressed. Former Lazio defender Marius Stankevicius felled Kastasaev – earning a yellow card for his troubles – and Kaitov was briefly treated for a nasty gash on his forehead after another scrap.
Increasingly agricultural tackles by the Padanians were not enough, however, to stop Gurtsiev making one of his trademark runs, and a pinpoint cross to Ibragim Bazaev, who cut inside and scored with a high volley.
Padania did their best to regain some momentum, and they nearly found a lifeline when they won a penalty during a goalmouth scrap. Riccardo Ravasi converted from the spot, but a cagey five minutes of added time failed to produce an equaliser, giving the win – and qualification – to South Ossetia.