South Ossetia 0 – 0 Chameria (South Ossetia win 6-5 on penalties)
By Alun Macer-Wright
South Ossetia progressed to the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup final after a nail-biting 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Chameria. Sunday’s game will be their first ever final in a CONIFA tournament.
Askeran City Stadium played host to an intriguing semi-final between two teams who most would not have tipped to progress beyond the group stages. South Ossetia and Chameria came into the tournament as unknown quantities, but have entertained crowds in Artsakh with some scintillating football.
The first half was not pretty, with plenty of niggly fouls breaking up the play and preventing either side from getting into any real passing rhythm. There were plenty of speculative shots from distance, but nothing that caused the goalkeepers too much concern.
One of Chameria’s star men this tournament, striker Marko van Basten Cema, was convinced he had won a penalty, but was ruled to have been in an offside position by the referee’s assistant. His opposite number, South Ossetian forward Ibragim Bazaev, whistled a shot just over the crossbar.
A flurry of late first-half chances gave both sides cause for optimism, including a great run and shot from South Ossetian star man Batradz Gurtsiev, and a rapid Chameria counter-attack which Cema couldn’t capitalise on.
The teams reverted to the first-half malaise after the break. Bazaev’s decision to shoot from a free kick awarded in the centre circle was symbolic of a lack of creativity, which could be perhaps be forgiven after their gruelling group campaigns this week. The ever-present striker almost managed to divert home a huge punt downfield by his keeper Muharbeg Buraev.
Cema’s strike partner Samet Gjoka shot just wide after a neat turn, whilst Dzhambolat Hastayev shot just over for South Ossetia in stoppage time, but the match went to penalties, which had seemed inevitable.
The penalty shoot-out was one of the highest quality, with 11 of the 14 kicks giving the keeper no chance whatsoever. A ‘panenka’ from Cema when he had to score to keep Chameria in it was audacious in the extreme. His teammate Boci Xhorxhian had his attempt saved by Buraev however, who dived low to his right, to spark wild celebrations for the South Ossetians.
Abkhazia 1-1 Western Armenia (Western Armenia win 3-0 on penalties)
By Liam Potter
Western Armenia progressed to the final of the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Football Cup after beating Abkhazia 3-0 on penalties.
Abkhazia opened the scoring against the run of play. Khugaev twisted and turned his way into the penalty area, before poking the ball beyond the goalkeeper to break the deadlock.
Western Armenia worked their way back into the game and won a controversial penalty midway through the first half. A Western Armenian forward was touched in the area and the contact was deemed enough to award a penalty.
Davit Manoyan stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to level the semi-final tie.
The second half was a tense affair, with Western Armenia failing to exploit the spaces in the Abkhazian defence when it mattered most.
Abkhazia’s chances were few and far between but they were willing to be patient for their opportunity. Their patience was nearly rewarded on 70 minutes when Pimpya cut in from the wing to force a fine save from the Western Armenian goalkeeper.
Both teams pushed for a late winner but the game went to penalties after 90 minutes.
Abkhazia missed all of their penalties whilst Western Armenia scored all three to earn a place in the final in front of thousands of fans to send the stadium into euphoria.
Artsakh 2 – 1 Szekely Land
By Claudio Cavallo
In Martuni, Artsakh and Szekley Land played out their placement game at the CONIFA Sportsbet.io European Cup 2019. Artsakh were looking to get back into winning ways – even if it was just to go through to fight for 5th place – in front of their home supporters. Szekley Land wanted to find their first win of the tournament. All of this was played out in front of a large crowd on a sweltering afternoon.
The first half started slowly, with Artsakh creating a chance after few seconds… but the shot flew wide. The rhythm of the game was a laboured in the heat with Szekely Land having the best chance of the half with a low cross from the right. The ball was deflected and hit the post, from where Barna shot. The keeper made a great save, and a second later saved again from Botona’s attempted tap in. And that was it until half time, with both teams without much in the way of chances.
The second half began quickly with a decent attempt for Artsakh. Shakhkeledyan made a solo run against the keeper, but was brought down by Norbert, who was promptly booked. The deadlock was finally broken in the 62nd minute; Barna collected a deep ball, got into the area and shot from the side. This time Khatchatryan could do nothing and Szekley Land took the lead.
There was an immediate reaction from Artsakh. After some decent chances for the home team, they are awarded a penalty… which was coolly converted to make it 1-1.
In the 78th minute, Szekley Land went down to 10 men after Attila’s high elbow saw him get sent off. And with the last chance of the game, Artsakh scored. A cross from the right was swept in, the ball was controlled by Danielyan and his take was strong enough to beat the keeper. 2-1 and Artsakh go on to play for 5th place on Saturday 8 June.
Padania 4-0 Sapmi
By Olaf Jensen
Padania’s dominant performance disguised a dreary placement match in which Sapmi were totally prevented from building any momentum.
Padania scored after just 10 minutes, Niccolo Colombo driving a low shot through the hapless Sapmi defence.
Although Sapmi managed to turn this last-ditch defending into a series of credible counterattacks, they were too ponderous on the ball, and rarely looked like threatening the Padanian goal.
Their best chances fell to Benjamin Zakrisson sending a shot over the crossbar after a nice move by Mannsverk and Jannok, then skipping over the keeper moments later, only for the ball to be wrenched away by a Padanian defender.
It was not enough to wrest the momentum away from Padania, however.
The second half was more of the same – it was all Padania, all the time. Within minutes of kick-off, they added a second through a rising header from Corno.
Sapmi were barely allowed to play any football, and became clumsier with every passing minute, exemplified by a poor tackle on Niccolo Pavan by Kristoffer Edvardsen which earned Padania a penalty, coolly converted by Ravasi.
For a while, the game lost all urgency. Sapmi defended in numbers, soaking up most of Padanian pressure – admittedly, a relaxed sort of pressure – and only once conjuring up a noteworthy attack, when Samuli Laitila made a big run and sent a big shot into the side netting.
Padania finally added their fourth, when Corno muscled passed everyone a slotted in his second of the match.
With the result wrapped up, the players simply wafted around the pitch until full time.