Santos overcame a 5-4 first-leg defeat, and the absence of their suspended superstar Falcao, to edge Carlos Barbosa on penalties and become the first Paulista winners of Brazil’s Liga Futsal last night. The Gaúcho side were just minutes from becoming the five-time outright record champions, but Fernando Ferretti’s decision to sacrifice his goalkeeper for another outfield player paid dividends, helping Deives send the game into extra time. And, after that finished goalless, Santos won 7-6 in the ensuing shoot-out to send the home crowd, which included Ganso and Neymar, into raptures.
Santos, who had won 14 and drawn two of their 16 previous home matches in the competition, hit the ground running, with Indio going close to breaking the deadlock in the first minute and Valdin forcing Lavoisier into making a superb double save soon afterwards. The Carlos Barbosa goalkeeper was, nevertheless, powerless to prevent the opener on five minutes. From a free-kick, Ricardinho faked the shot and rolled the ball to Neto, who skipped inside his marker and drove the ball low and hard into the bottom corner.
The visitors began to find their rhythm thereafter, and they got their reward just before the end of the first 20 minutes, when Sinoe capitalised upon defensive hesitation to poke home the equaliser.
It was all Santos at the start of the second half, but they were repeatedly frustrated by the courage and reflexes of Lavoisier until Neto tricked his way down the left and cut the ball back for Pixote, who thumped it into the roof of the net to restore his team’s lead.
With seven minutes remaining, though, the ball fell to Rodrigo and he blasted it home for his 28th goal of the tournament.
Ferretti’s response was to withdraw his No1 Djony and deploy Pixote as a sweeper-keeper, and the latter vindicated his Santos coach’s judgement. Collecting the ball at the back, he conned his way past an adversary and unleashed a piledriver. Lavoisier did manage to pluck it from his line, but Deives made no mistake from the rebound to make it 3-2.
That’s how it stayed throughout the remainder of normal and extra time, meaning penalties would decide the outcome of the Liga Futsal. Both coaches sent their reserve goalkeepers out for the shoot-out and, with the Santos 7-6 up in sudden death, Carlos Barbosa’s Tostao fired his spot-kick over Paulo Vitor’s crossbar to spark wild celebrations at the Arena Santos.
Leading them was Falcao, who left the Malwee/Jaragua team he helped monopolise the Liga Futsal in recent years to join his beloved Santos for the start of this campaign. The recipient of the adidas Golden Ball at the last two FIFA Futsal World Cups was dismissed during the first leg of the final, which was seen as a big blow to Ferretti’s tean's chances.
“This has taken a ton of weight of my back,” said the 34-year-old, who vacated his position in the stands to go courtside and cheer on his team-mates. “Only I know how much I suffered since getting sent off away to Carlos Barbosa, but fortunately I’m here with a medal on my chest.”
The Liga Futsal was incepted in 1996. Carlos Barbosa and Malwee/Jaragua, the former club of Falcao, have won a joint-record four titles, while Santos have become just the second team outside Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina or Minas Gerais to lift the trophy in 16 editions.