Paraguay and Ukraine have opened the FIFA Futsal World Cup with an keenly contested 3-3 draw at the Huamark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok.
Enmanuel Ayala grabbed the headlines, scoring a hat-trick that looked to have secured the South Americans all three points only to pick up a needless red card that allowed Ukraine back into the match.
The 26-year-old’s first goal came after nine minutes, when he seized on a slack pass before jinking on to his left foot past an off-balance defender and crashing a powerful shot just inside the right-hand post. Ukraine hit back immediately though, with Maksym Pavlenko finishing off a slick team move to restore parity within 60 seconds.
However, despite a promising start to the second half, the eastern Europeans conceded a second goal ten minutes after the restart. This time, Ayala was fed by a chipped pass from his twin brother, Gabriel, and he wriggled away from the attentions of goalkeeper Ievgen Ivanyak before slotting into the unguarded net.
Again though, Ukraine fought back, drawing level from the penalty spot with five minutes remaining, when Petro Shoturma curled in a precise left-footed shot off the inside of the post. Ayala completed his hat-trick with a coolly dispatched penalty of his own just two minutes later, but was then sent off for diving - his second bookable offence.
Shorn of their star forward, Paraguay couldn’t hold out for the win, with Pavlenko slotting home from an acute angle to secure a deserved share of the spoils as the final seconds ticked down.
“I am satisfied with the performance of my players, but not with the result because I think Ukraine should have won. Nevertheless, we know we have drawn against a strong team in Paraguay, and that means we are ready to play anyone," Gennadiy Lisenchuk, Ukraine coach.
“It was a very tight match, which in the end had a just result. Neither team played well defensively, and that is something we will have to work on. This result is not a setback though - I still believe we can advance to the next round and even win the group," Fernando Leite, Paraguay coach.