by Simon Daish (Interview by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF Africa, Press Officer)
Leading by a 3-1 scoreline heading into the 2nd leg of the quarter-finals, Sporting held the upper hand and a positive display from João Monteiro who opposed Wei Shihao in the opening fixture of the tie (11-9, 11-8, 14-12) strengthened the visiting side’s advantage.
Chen Tianyuan restored a glimmer of hope for the home fans with a five games victory over Quadri Aruna (8-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4) to pull La Romagne back into the match. However, it was not to be for the French side as Diogo Carvalho registered a clean sweep win against Adrian Crisan (11-9, 11-4, 11-7) to guarantee Sporting’s place in the semi-finals.
“We are all very happy with this achievement. Never before has a Portuguese team played the Champions League and in the year of the debut, we reached the semi-finals and will be among the top four teams in Europe for this season. This was made possible due to team spirit and we all managed to be in good shape in all the matches which was important. Also the help and support from our fans was key.” João Monteiro
Next up for Sporting on the Champions League stage is a tough encounter with defending champions Fakel-Gazprom Orenburg, who fielded the ever-reliable line-up of Jun Mizutani, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Vladimir Samsonov to secure a second consecutive 3-0 victory over Roskilde Bordtennis BTK61.
The other semi-finals tie will be contested by two German sides as Borussia Düsseldorf and TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen go head-to-head for a place in the title match
Kristian Karlsson and Timo Boll made sure of Düsseldorf’s spot in the last four with respective wins against Maharu Yoshimura (11-7, 11-7, 13-11) and Alexander Shibaev (8-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8) eliminating the TTSC UMMC from the tournament.
Trailing FC Saarbrücken 3-2 following the conclusion of the 1st leg, Ochsenhausen pulled off a dramatic recovery effort in the 2nd leg of the quarter-finals tie with Jakub Dyjas, Yuto Muramatsu and Hugo Calderano all earning victories to lead Ochsenhausen to a 3-1 triumph.
European Champions League: Results and Fixtures