Abkhazia 0 – 0 Chameria (Abkhazia 5-4 on penalties)
By Olaf Jensen
Abkhazia beat Chameria on penalties in an often bad-tempered third-place playoff in Stepanakert, during which the beautiful game was not much in evidence.
Chameria, who often rely on the talents of the enormous striker Marko van Basten Çema, had much of their passing game nullified by the strong Abkhazian midfield; despite a few penetrating runs, Chameria’s nifty number 10, Gjoka, was prevented from slicing balls over through to Çema.
Abkhazia saw most of the early action, forcing the Chameria keeper into lightning-fast saves on several occasions – but proving vulnerable on the break to the quick Chamerian attackers.
After around 20 minutes, Çema – a fast, defence-splitting presence – lofted a near ball over to Gjeci, who was marginally too slow to reach it, almost completing a perfect counter.
And this momentum sapped Abkhazia’s discipline – a slew of sloppy, foul-tempered tackles earned them two yellow cards within two minutes. Indeed, the half ended with the two teams openly fighting – adding more names to the referee’s book.
Abkhazia brought on Maskaev at half time to bolster their attacking threat. He made an instant impact, adding a fresh dynamism to the pitch, and claiming one of the game’s best chances when he cut inside and fired straight at the keeper.
But the conflict resumed after an hour passed. A high kick to the back of an Abkhazian player saw Zaimi sent off, while Baholli – himself a substitute – was replaced via a green card.
Down to 10 men and their game plan in tatters, Chameria became increasingly reckless, but paradoxically gained a new vibrancy through the fast-paced winger Hasa, who repeatedly combined well with Marko van Basten Çema and Gjoka.
Their counterattacking skill – which nearly resulted in a goal after a perfect cross by Hasa to Çema was tipped over by the keeper – was not enough, and the more numerous Abkhazians took control of the game.
With penalties looming, both teams looked increasingly sloppy, barely keeping hold of possession; Abkhazia were unable to make the most of their advantage.
So third-place would be decided by penalties. Both teams were level until Çema missed his attempt, allowing captain Khugaev the platform to score slot his past the keeper, and secure the bronze medal for Abkhazia.
Padania 0-2 Artsakh
By Liam Potter
Artsakh secured fifth place in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup as a goal from Arsen Sargasyan and another for Malyaka secured the win for the tournament hosts in the national stadium in Stepanakert.
The first half was a flat affair as both sides became accustomed to the conditions in the bright sun. Andrea Rota had a half chance as he cut in from the wing, but his effort was easily gathered by the Artsakh goalkeeper.
Artsakh’s main threat came through Marat Karapetyan who danced with experienced central defender Marius Stankevicius throughout the first half. However, any chances Artsakh fashioned were matched by the Padania goalkeeper, who was impressive between the sticks.
A drinks break midway through the first half kicked the game into life, but neither side could break the deadlock before the interval, which ended with an Artsakh coach being booked for leaving his technical area too many times.
In the second period, both sides continued to battle with the heat, but it was the lively Karapetyan who created Artsakh’s opener. His mazy run from the wing opened up space for Artsakh’s Arsen Sagarsyan in the area. The captain struck the ball first time low into the bottom corner, celebrating in front of the Artsakh fans.
As time ticked by and the heat sapped the energy of the players, Padania fought their way back into the game. From a corner, a Padania forward lost his man in the area but his effort, unmarked from 12 yards, sailed way over the bar.
Despite the pressure and holding off their counterparts in six minutes of added time, Artsakh secured the win deep into stoppage time through Malyaka who carried the ball all the way from the halfway line to slot home and secure fifth place in the tournament.
At the end of the game, both sides were presented with trophies in the medal ceremony for finishing fifth and sixth respectively in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup 2019.
Sapmi 3-2 Szekely Land
By Alun Macer-Wright
Sapmi secured 7th place in the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup with a 3-2 victory over Szekely Land, their first win of the competition.
Two teams who have endured disappointing campaigns brought them to a close at the Askeran City Stadium with an entertaining game. Despite failing to register a win in the group stages, both sides have contributed to some brilliant matches in Artsakh, which will live long in the memory.
The early exchanges were uneventful, but Sapmi grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck after 17 minutes, as Benjamin Zahrisson found space in the box and fired in low at the keeper’s near post. They got another moments later when Samuli Latila raced onto a loose ball after the Szekely Land defence had failed to clear.
Sapmi were in pole position, but an agonising goalkeeping error brought Szekely Land back into the match. Norbert Lazar’s dangerous free kick delivery was flicked on by Rajmond Balint, and Anton Sarri couldn’t hold on as it rolled over the line.
The pressure continued to come from Szekely Land, and the chance for the equaliser arose when Bojond Kovacs was brought down in the corner of the box. Akos Kovacs showed held his nerve from 12 yards as he slotted past Sarri into the bottom right corner.
A key turning point came on the hour mark, as Szekely Land’s Ghinea Hunor was shown a red card for a second bookable offence. Szekely still posed a threat going forward though, with Norbert Benko-Biro blasting a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
Sapmi were able to find more space going forward, and eventually found the winning goal. A corner was pulled back to Latila, whose shot was deflected in for his second of the game. They had to weather the storm of a late green card for Mika Holmen Haetta, and after a Barna Vekas strike which Sarri had to tip over, they just about held on to secure 7th place.