CYPRUS suffered their second straight defeat in World Cup qualifying at the hands of Greece in Piraeus on Friday night, but the 2-0 scoreline did not do justice to the spirited performance from the visitors.
Christakis Christoforou’s men created a fair few more opportunities than the hosts but were ultimately made to pay for individual errors and inaccuracy in front of goal.
Apoel had defeated Olympiacos on the same ground just eight days prior and Cyprus were looking to spark a similar surprise to get their qualifying campaign off the ground after last month’s loss to Belgium.
Sotiriou, who scored the winner for Apoel in that game, could only make the bench after failing to recover from injury and was replaced by Mytides up front.
Cyprus started the brighter of the two teams, with Mytides’ holding up play well for the likes of Kastanos and Efrem to make forward runs beyond the Greek defence.
But despite the positive start, it was Greece who took the lead after their first spell of pressure. In believing that the apparent foul by Tsavelas on Charalambides would be blown up by the referee, the Cyprus players momentarily paused, allowing Fortounis the time to pick out Mitroglou who neatly finished beyond Panayi for the opener.
Cyprus nevertheless maintained their composure and continued to pass the ball well as they looked to get back into the game. Charalambides blasted a free-kick goalwards on 22 minutes from distance which deflected kindly into the path of Mytides, but heroic defending from Manolas blocked the striker’s shot.
More good defending from Greece kept the hosts ahead when captain Torosidis nodded Charalambides in swinging cross out for a corner with Cyprus. From the resulting kick, Laifis managed to wriggle away from his marker but failed to divert the ball on target when he really should have made it level.
It was Greece’s turn to spurn a good effort shortly after, as Mitroglou attempted to lob the goalkeeper when through on goal but got his effort horribly wrong.
Cyprus’ hopes of leaving with a positive result took a major blow just three minutes before the break when goalkeeper Panayi rolled the ball out to Laifis without being aware of Greek midfielder Mantalos closing. Mantalos knicked the ball off the defender before lobbing the keeper for 2-0.
The visitors came out for the second half with the same mentality they showed in the first, but again failed to make a good chance count. Kastanos’ cross found Mytides in the six-yard box but the Roda JC striker headed over.
On 54 minutes, Charalambous picked out Efrem on the edge of the box, only for his effort to be blocked by Mytides as it arrowed towards goal.
Teenage Juventus star Kastanos saw his effort saved by Karnezis late on, in what was Cyprus’ final significant chance on goal.
For all of Cyprus’ efforts, they have now lost their opening two group matches and the task of getting their campaign up and running does not get any easier as their next game is a tough trip to Bosnia on Monday.
Nevertheless, it was where they picked up three points in Euro 2016 qualifying and if they can put in a similar performance to the one they did against Greece, they will be in with a chance.