Image credit: Gevorg Ghazaryan
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.