Cyprus Mail
Football

Sorry Cyprus succumb to Belgian blitz

Marouane Fellaini (c) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the game

By Andreas Vou

Cyprus were dealt a 5-0 thrashing by group favourites Belgium on Saturday night which sees the Red Devils leapfrog Pambos Christodoulou’s men into third place in Group B.

Well aware of the abundant attacking quality of their Belgian counterparts, Cyprus’ objective from the offset was clear as they defended in numbers awaiting an inevitable offensive onslaught.

Despite coping bravely for the opening 20 minutes, the deadlock was eventually broken by Manchester United’s Marouane Fellaini with a low left-footed striker after the Cypriots failed to clear the ball following a game of head tennis in the penalty area.

Eden Hazard has been in scintillating form for Chelsea this season and tormented the Cypriot defence throughout the night. His cross on 35 minutes found Christian Benteke unmarked and the Aston Villa striker headed the ball beyond Tassos Kissas who was stepping in for the injured Antonis Georgallides.

Facing a top opponent like Belgium away from home was always going to be a huge challenge for Cyprus but combined with a number of injuries to key players the task was made even tougher.

As well as Georgallides out injured, Giorgos Efrem, Demetris Christofi, Stathis Aloneftis, Dossa Junior, Jason Demetriou and Nektarios Alexandrou were all unavailable and the lack of character and maturity was evident.

The margin going into the break could have been wider had it not been for a string of excellent saves from Kissas, none better than the one on the stroke of half-time from a point-blank Axel Witsel header.

Like in the first-half, Cyprus did well to keep Belgium at bay for the early stages but the third goal of the night opened the floodgates. Fellaini, who has been in top form at club level this season, struck a beautiful curling effort from the edge of the box which arrowed perfectly into the top corner of the net on 66 minutes.

Within a blink of an eye, it was 4-0. Hazard got his reward for a spectacular performance with a goal of his own a minute later. After a mazy run followed by a one-two with Witsel, the 24-year-old curled the ball into the far corner via the post.

Even as the pace of the game dropped dramatically in the final 15 minutes, there was still time for more. Just minutes after coming on for his senior debut, 21-year-old Michy Batshuayi broke clear of the Cypriot defence and rolled the ball calmly into the far corner to seal a comprehensive win for Belgium.

Perhaps the only positive for Cyprus on the night was the introduction of Grigoris Kastanos on 84 minutes. The 17-year-old Juventus starlet came on to make his international debut and is regarded as a huge prospect for the future.

The result pushes Cyprus down to fourth place, two points behind Belgium in third and five points behind group leaders Wales. Cyprus’ next competitive international fixture sees them visit Andorra on 12 June.

Group B matches
Saturday, March 28
Andorra 0 Bosnia 3
Belgium 5 Cyprus 0
Israel 0 Wales 3
Standings P W D L F A Pts
1 Wales 5 3 2 0 7 2 11
2 Israel 4 3 0 1 9 5 9
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3 Belgium 4 2 2 0 12 1 8
4 Cyprus 5 2 0 3 9 10 6
5 Bosnia 5 1 2 2 5 6 5
6 Andorra 5 0 0 5 2 20 0

Group A
Saturday, March 28
Czech Republic 1 Latvia 1
Kazakhstan 0 Iceland 3
Netherlands 1 Turkey 1
Standings P W D L F A Pts
1 Czech Republic 5 4 1 0 11 6 13
2 Iceland 5 4 0 1 12 2 12
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3 Netherlands 5 2 1 2 11 6 7
4 Turkey 5 1 2 2 6 8 5
5 Latvia 5 0 3 2 2 11 3
6 Kazakhstan 5 0 1 4 4 13 1

Group H
Saturday, March 28
Azerbaijan 2 Malta 0
Bulgaria 2 Italy 2
Croatia 5 Norway 1
Standings P W D L F A Pts
1 Croatia 5 4 1 0 15 2 13
2 Italy 5 3 2 0 8 4 11
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3 Norway 5 3 0 2 7 8 9
4 Bulgaria 5 1 2 2 6 7 5
5 Azerbaijan 5 1 0 4 4 11 3
6 Malta 5 0 1 4 1 9 1

Group G matches on Friday
Friday, March 27
Liechtenstein 0 Austria 5
Moldova 0 Sweden 2
Montenegro 0 Russia 0 aband.66 due to crowd trouble
Standings P W D L F A Pts
1 Austria 5 4 1 0 10 2 13
2 Sweden 5 2 3 0 7 3 9
————————-
3 Russia 4 1 2 1 6 3 5
4 Montenegro 4 1 2 1 3 2 5
5 Liechtenstein 5 1 1 3 1 11 4
6 Moldova 5 0 1 4 2 8 1

The following games will be played today Sunday, March 29th:
Georgia v Germany (1900)
Scotland v Gibraltar (1900)
Ireland v Poland (2145)
Northern Ireland v Finland (1900)
Romania v Faroe Islands (1900)
Hungary v Greece (2145)
Albania v Armenia (1900)
Portugal v Serbia (2145)

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