By Andreas Vou
Cyprus pulled off a shock 2-1 away win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday to put an end to a miserable run of 13 matches without a win but manager Pambos Christodoulou feels that with similar performances, the team “can achieve more”.
While Cyprus celebrated an ideal start to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign which even earned presidential praise, the Bosnians were not making any excuses after a lacklustre display.
President Nicos Anastasiades took the time to pay tribute to the team’s efforts via his personal Twitter account: “Congratulations to our national team for the big win against Bosnia. It is an excellent start.”
It looked like it was going to be a familiar story for the national team when Vedad Ibisevic stole in unmarked to meet an inswinging cross and head into the corner after just six minutes to make it 1-0 to the home side.
Cyprus had not even scored a single goal in their last nine matches but on the stroke of half-time, Stathis Aloneftis’ cross met Dimitris Christofi, who somehow managed to beat the 1.96m giant Asmir Begovic in the Bosnian goal to nod home the equaliser.
The goal ended Cyprus’ drought of 926 minutes of international football without a goal, their first since February 2013.
On 72 minutes, Marios Nikolaou played an excellent ball through to Christofi and there was no chance of anybody catching the pacey striker. Christofi took one touch to compose himself and another to slot the ball past Begovic to put Cyprus 2-1 up.
A famous night was on the verge of being taken away from Cyprus as Bosnia were awarded a penalty in the 88th minute. Miralem Pjanic was the one who stepped up to take the spot-kick but saw his effort saved. After the game, the Roma midfielder apologised for his miss and his performance.
“I want to say sorry to the team and the fans. I took the penalty, I didn’t score and I take the responsibility for the defeat. I can’t explain why we played so badly.”
To every villain there is a hero and in this case it was Cyprus keeper Antonis Georgallides, who denied Pjanic to preserve the scoreline and earn Cyprus’ first away win in seven years.
Speaking about the incident, Georgallides said it was down to good research and divine inspiration.
“It was a study that we had done with the goalkeeping coach and the scouting team and based on the study, we made certain decisions. Thankfully God helped us and we managed to leave with the win. All the guys made a massive effort.”
After what was Christodoulou’s first official match in charge, the former AEL boss has bigger targets in mind: “This is a massive win but we need to take each game at a time. We are the outsiders but if we continue to play like this then we can achieve more,” while also adding that “we need our fans to push us on.”
The result came as a massive shock to Bosnia, who were left ruing their shortfalls in what should have been a relatively straightforward match. Manager Safet Susic, who guided Bosnia to the World Cup in Brazil this summer, was not in the mood for excuses.
“We didn’t deserve to win. We played well in the first ten minutes and we scored a quick goal. After that, simply nothing went well.”
Cyprus will be in high spirits going into the next Group B qualifying match at home to Israel on 10 October at the GSP and Christodoulou’s side have a good chance of setting down a marker in Group B.