Kurdistan secured a place in the semi-finals with their second win in the group stage as they beat Provence by the odd goal in five. The victory for the favourites was more difficult than expected. They seemed over-confident and were forced to make a recovery midway through the first half to turn the result in their favour.
Kurdistan suffered badly after the break and only managed to end the group stage with maximum points thanks to a goal that arrived deep into stoppage time when Provence were all out to regain the lead. Provence were more motivated as they needed to make up for the defeat conceded in their previous match against Regno Delle Due Sicilie and also needed a victory to win the second spot on the table and a place in the semi-finals.
The French squad had good deployment and produced pressure over Kurdistan particularly in the last stages of the match. However, their strikers lacked sharpness in front of goal and ended up conceding a goal in the dying moments which left them without a point from two matches.
Thanks to this result, Regno Delle Due Sicilie finish as runners-up in Group 2 and therefore qualify for the next stage. The southern Italians will face northern Italians Padania in a derby which will decide one of the finalists to contend the title.
Kurdistan tried to put pressure over their opponents from the very beginning especially through moves on the flanks through Qarman and Rahman. Provence took some time to settle down but in the meantime they maintained good positioning and kept danger away from their area. The French side surprised Kurdistan on 19 minutes. Their rear-guard failed to clear a cross from the left flank and the ball arrived to the unmarked Yann Liset who crossed immediately and Bruno Borghesi headed easily past goalie Othman from close distance.
Kurdistan had an immediate reaction and were unlucky two minutes later when a close ranged strike by Karzan Abdullah from a cross by Deyar Rahman hit the crossbar. The ball bounced on the line and the defence managed to clear the danger.
However, Kurdistan levelled the score one minute after the half hour of play. Karzan Abdullah headed towards Hydar Qaraman and the latter fired in goal from an angled position.
They even managed to turn the result in their favour four minutes later. This time, it was Qaraman who entered the area following a fast break and from his pass, Deyar Rahman placed easily in goal.
Provence replied one minute later through a low shot by Yann Liset that was neutralized by goalie Othman and on 39 minutes the French recovered the one-goal deficit. Once again it was Bruno Borghesi who surprised the Kurdistan rearguard and deposited into an open goal as Othman came out in an attempt to block the danger.
Provence pressed forward during the second period in an attempt to take the lead and earn a place in the semi-finals. Kurdistan were forced to defend their area for long stretches but created the first serious action of the second period on the hour of play when a strike by substitute Hardee Nooruldeen was saved with difficulty by goalie Larsonnier. Six minutes later Provence had a goal by Yann Liset disallowed for a foul by the same player and on 79 minute a long ranged strike by Stephane Juan ended just wide. Provence pressed their opponents in their area in the final stages of the match and went very close to scoring on more than one occasion.
On 86 minutes the Kurdistan goalkeeper Otham made two consecutive saves to defend his goal from a shot by Kamel Bourqua following a melee in the area. The same Bourqua and Benattar had two consecutive shots from close distance in the second minute of stoppage time incredibly blocked by the rearguard with the goalkeeper beaten and one minute later a goal by Bourqua was disallowed for an offside infringement.
Kursdistan clinched the winner in the fifth minute of stoppage time. Hydar Qaraman won a tussle with the goalkeeper in the midfield and placed into an empty goal from long distance.
They could have even added another goal when Ayad entered the area in a fast break but had his shot partially saved by the goalkeeper and from the rebound Rahman concluded incredibly wide with an open goal at his mercy.
PROVENCE D. Larsonnier, S. Tognarelli, B. Benattar, Y. Liset (J. Perrin), N. Guendouz, N. Ramdane (S. Juan), B. Borghesi, J. Fiala, C. Benchaa, K. Bourqoua, T. Gossot.
KURDISTAN A. Othman, H. Qaraman, B. Abdulkarim (S. Haseeb), P. Abdulradha (S. Aziz), H. Seyamand, F. Haidar, S. Muhsin (H. Nooruldeen), A. Aziz (N. Shukri), K. Abdullah (A. Ayad), M. Hamakhan, D. Rahman.
Referee: Antonio Guida (Italy)
Asst. Referees: 1st Aaron Fenech (Malta), 2nd Joe Bajada (Gozo)
4th Official: Mario Mazzoleni (Italy)
Scorers: B. Borghesi 19’, 39’ (P); H. Qaraman 31’, 90+5’; D. Rahman 35’ (K)
OCCITANIA WINS DIRECT CLASH TO REACH SEMI-FINALS
The direct clash for the second spot on the table of Group 1 ended up with a comfortable win for Occitania over hosts Gozo. The French paved the way to qualification with two goals scored during the first half which demoralised the Gozitans, leaving them out of contention by the end of the first half.
Occitania opened the score from a penalty scored during the first minute and doubled the score during a patch of play when Gozo were producing a reaction in an attempt to recover the deficit. During the second period, Occitania controlled with authority, took advantage of an extra player on the field and scored two late goals to register the largest victory of the tournament so far. Overall, Occitania’s win arrived with the least possible effort as they took advantage of Gozo’s inexperience. The French side will now face Kurdistan in the semi-finals while Gozo will play the match for the fifth and sixth place against Provence.
Gozo had an uphill struggle right from the start. In fact, after just fifteen seconds of play Occitania’s Sebastien Taillan ended on the floor in the area when pressed by Peter Buttigieg. The referee awarded a penalty and Marc Ballue converted from the spot kick.
The Gozitans’ reaction was rather sterile and Occitania could have doubled the score on 14 minutes with a fast break but Gomet’s shot missed the target. One minute later, a Gamet effort was partially saved by Mark Grima and from the resultant melee the referee awarded an indirect free kick in the area as Gozo’s defender passed the ball to the goalkeeper. On 22 minutes, Gozo’s goalkeeper was called to make a difficult save following an attempt by Soro. Gozo started to create some danger midway through the first period.
On 25 minutes, Milos Stojanovic came face to face with the goalkeeper following a counter attack but the Occitania goalkeeper managed to block the shot from the edge of the area. Two minute later, it was John Camilleri who had an angled shot that ended just wide.
Occitania doubled the score on 36 minutes. Goalie Grima only saved partially a long ranged free kick, from the rebound the goalkeeper blocked the close ranged attempt by Gomet but the ball arrived to Marc Ballue who deposited in goal from the second rebound.
Gozo could have reopened the issue five minutes from half time but goalie Jimmy Leban managed to save with difficulty a long ranged free kick by Akande Williams.
On 56 minutes, Gozo suffered a set back when they were reduced to ten players as Mario Azzopardi was sent for an early shower for a dangerous foul on Soro.
Occitania extended their lead through s fine strike by Sebastien Taillan who was unmarked in the area by Soro.
One minute later Soro failed to conclude from close distance following a cross from the left flank addressed to the second post. On 73 minutes Gozo’s goalkeeper made a good intervention to save a fine attempt by Julien Cantier. Five minutes later, Occitania defender Danyach denied Gozo from a consolation goal when he cleared off the line a header by Milos Stojanovic from a free kick by Simoncic. Then it was goalie Grima who made a good save to block a close ranged shot by Bastier.
Occitania continued to dominate during the dying moments of the match and sealed the issue with a spectacular goal that arrived two minutes from time. It was Jordan Amiel who placed out of Franklin Vella’s reach with an overhead kick following a cross from the right by Boris Naumcenski.
After the final whistle Occitania went next to the dressing rooms to applaud their opponents in a gesture of true sportsmanship that was very much appreciated.
OCCITANIA J. Leban (R. Veliat), B. Naumceuski, R. Danyach, M. Ballue (B. Massare), K. Feussereau, N. Cayetano (W. Alquier), C. Mouysset, S. Taillan (J. Cantier), B. Bastier, E. Gamet (J. Amiel), G. Soro.
GOZO M. Grima (F. Vella), F. Apap (B. Meilak), M. Azzopardi, A. Simoncic, C. Camilleri, P. Buttigieg (D. Farrugia), J. Camilleri (R. Buttigieg), J. Portelli, I. Adesina (M. Cordina), M. Stojanovic, A. Williams.
Referee: Per Anders Blind (Sweden)
Asst. Referees: 1st Luciano Casnati (Italy), 2nd Karim Hatam Azad (Kurdistan)
4th Official: Claudio Guida (Italy)
Scorers: M. Ballue 1’ pen., 36’; S. Taillan 61’, J. Amiel 88’, G. Soro 90+2’
Match Reports courtesy of Joe Bajada