Russia beat Ukraine in Euro clash marred by ‘Russophobic’ crowd chants
Russia booked their place in the Euro 2022 futsal final by seeing off neighbors Ukraine 3-2 at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam.
The Russians came racing out of the tracks and took the lead after just a minute when Anton Sokolov drilled in a low-driven shot that took a deflection.
Then on 14 minutes, Andrei Afanasyev doubled the lead after hitting the woodwork with a header and then firing home the rebound for his first goal of the tournament.
Ukraine were quick to respond to the onslaught, with Yevgen Siryi pulling one back by converting a corner from outside the penalty area.
As Ukraine came close before half time, the opening stages of the second half saw each side enjoy a flurry of shots with Russia's Daniil Davydov clipping the post.
Gradually, however, Russia exerted their dominance and looked every bit capable of grabbing a third that came when Artem Niyazov produced a flying bicycle kick volley with 10 minutes to spare.
But they weren't home and dry just yet, and sweated when Danyil Abakshyn fired one in from outside the box to make it 3-2 on 34 minutes.
Further drama came when Ukraine got a penalty right at the death, but defender Petro Shoturma fluffed his lines by hitting the spot kick straight at Dmitri Putilov, who merely kicked the ball away to safety.
Holding on to their lead and unbeaten record over the next minute or so amid Ukrainian pressure, Russia claimed the spoils and will face one of two Iberian neighbors in Spain or Portugal in Sunday's final.
Russia and Ukraine – who are usually kept apart in the draw for tournaments by UEFA – went into Friday's meeting to a backdrop of political and miliatary tensions.
Players from the Russian team, however, such as quarterfinals hero Ivan Chishkala, insisted that there was "no animosity" with their rivals.
Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, Dmitry Svishchev, predicted that any provocations would not come from members of the team.
This proved true, but Ukrainian fans were reportedly heard singing Russophobic songs that insulted Vladimir Putin, and were told by an announcer that the match would be brought to a halt for their if their "political and unsportsmanlike chants" continued.
Thankfully this wasn't necessary, and Russia can now focus on winning their first Euros futsal crown since 1999 and avenging five runners-up spots from 1996 to 2016.