By Nemanja Bjedov
Cyprus remain at the rock bottom of World Cup qualifying Group E with four points from seven matches, with not even a mathematical chance to directly progress, after a 2-0 defeat against Norway in Oslo on Friday night.
Chances were few and far between early on, although it was Cyprus who started brightly with Efstathios Aloneftis forcing Norway keeper Rune Jarstein into action.
The home side steadily started to find their feet and Tom Hogli had the game’s best chance midway through the half, when his strike was superbly tipped away by Antonis Giorgallides, with Brede Hangeland heading wide from the subsequent corner.
“Congratulations to Norway as they deservedly won,” assessed Cyprus national team coach Nikos Nioplias. “We were simply not good enough in the first half since we could not keep the ball in our possession in the middle.
“We gave our opponents many chances to win free kicks and corners and, as we all know, set pieces are their strong point.”
Norway took the lead just two minutes before the half time interval when Tarik El Younoussi headed home from Stefan Johansen’s corner.
“In the second half we improved and became more assertive than in the first half, but unfortunately we failed to score,” Nioplias went on.
“We should have shown less fear in our game and tried to enjoy it a bit more. We did that up to a point in the second half, but it was never going to be enough to prevent this defeat.”
Jason Demetriou nearly levelled out of nowhere just after the hour mark, with his point-blank strike forced away by Jarstein. It proved a crucial save as Norway doubled their advantage soon after, as Joshua King drilled past Giorgallides from Magnus Wolff Eikrem’s left-wing cross.
“The score leaves me completely satisfied, but as a team we can play much better football,” said Norway’s coach Egil Olsen whose team is currently second in the standings with 11 points.
“It was very important that we took advantage of the opportunities that we created and that we were able to achieve our goal, which was to win.”
Switzerland are still on top of the group with 15 points, despite an entertaining 4-4 draw against Iceland, who are in fourth place with 10 points – same as Albania in third, but the Albanians are ahead on better goal difference.
Slovenia are fifth overall with nine points ahead of their clash with Cyprus on Tuesday at Nicosia’s GSP Stadium.