Azerbaijan beat Ukraine 4-2 on penalties following a 3-3 draw at the Papp László Arena to earn a UEFA European Futsal Championship semi-final tie on Thursday against Serbia and Portugal, Uefa.com reported.
Scores level after 40 minutes, the game went straight into a penalty shoot-out, with veteran goalkeeper Andrey Tveryankin saving efforts from Maxym Pavlenko and Serhiy Cheporniuk. Rizvan Farzaliyev converted the fourth and decisive penalty kick for Alesio's side as the finals debutants made it to the last four.
Ukraine were a goal up in just eight seconds, with Mykhaylo Romanov intercepting on the edge of the box and firing low past Tveryankin, but Serjão's presence helped Azerbaijan buy an equaliser, the chunky pivot turning through a crowd of players and passing for Farzaliyev to hit the ball first time past Vladyslav Lysenko.
Gennadiy Lysenchuk's side offered Azerbaijan nothing like the possession they had enjoyed in their earlier games, and led again after eleven minutes, Denys Ovsyannikov teeing up Cheporniuk to head into an unguarded net, with Tveryankin grounded. Alesio's men responded, however, Thiago scoring straight from Alves's low corner.
At half-time it was 2-2, though the shots total - 32-16 in Azerbaijan's favour - told its own story; the Azeris eager to strike from all angles, while Ukraine toiled to carve out chances. Warnings unheeded, Biro Jade put Azerbaijan ahead five minutes after the break, driving home low after Thiago's free-kick found him in space.
Chances came Ukraine's way; Ovsyannikov should have scored when given the ball in the box, with the diving Tveryankin's outstretched hand preserving the Azeris' lead. However, not long after Serjão lobbed nonchalantly against the post, it was 3-3 as Oleksandr Kondratyuk blasted home a loose ball from a Tveryankin save.
With Azerbaijan's fine artists tiring, Ukraine's diligent craftsmen were increasingly on top, and as Alesio's men conceded their fifth foul with three minutes remaining, they were walking on eggshells. Thiago was duly penalised for a foul in the opposition area with 12 seconds to go, but Valeriy Legchanov hit the double penalty over the bar.