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World Cup

World Cup dream as good as over for Cyprus after late defeat in Estonia

Cyprus' only clear chance fell to Demetris Christofi but his shot was beaten away by the Estonian goalkeeper Aksalu

Cyprus suffered a late 1-0 defeat against Estonia on Sunday, effectively ending their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Confidence was high after their remarkable 3-2 comeback win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday, and another win would have made things interesting with two games more remaining but Mattias Kaeit’s injury-time strike sees those hopes dashed.

Ran Ben Shimon made two changes to the side that beat Bosnia on Thursday, with Konstantinos Laifis returning to the heart of defence in place of Giorgos Merkis, and Andreas Avraam coming in for veteran Constantinos Charalambidis.

The opening exchanges saw each side battle for control without conjuring up any notable goal-scoring opportunities.

However, Estonia almost got the go-ahead goal out of nothing when Cypriot goalkeeper Konstantinos Panayi, in his attempt to clear the ball, took a little too long and struck Estonia’s Sergei Zenjov though it fortunately went wide.

With a win of the utmost importance for Cyprus in order to keep up any faint qualification hopes, the first half gave little hope of taking the three points. Pieros Soteriou looked an isolated figure up front.

Laifis’ 40-yard attempt which dribbled way wide of the post was the team’s only effort on goal in the whole half, summing up the final-third action of the visitors.

Estonia came close towards the end of the half through Ats Purje who cut inside Jason Demetriou. His strike was heading for the far post but Fanos Katelaris’ touch almost deflected it inside the near stick, though thankfully for Cyprus it went wide for a corner.

The second half started in similar fashion, with very little possession football taking place from either side.

Estonia again looked the likelier of the two to score, this time on the hour mark when a defensive error from Katelaris allowed Henri Anier to run through on goal. Once free of the last man, the midfielder tried a left-footed strike which had Panayi at full stretch, but the effort went just wide of the far post.

Ilja Antonov then crossed in from a free kick and Mattias Kaeit headed goalwards, though it was straight at the keeper.

Time ticked on but there was no sign of Cyprus sustaining any pressure in the final third. But with 12 minutes left, the breakthrough so nearly came when Soteriou threaded a neat pass through to strike partner Christofi. The Omonia struck on target powerfully but the goalkeeper was equal to it.

The chance saw the game open up in the final stages, as Cyprus pushed forward in hope of a late winner. Katelaris opted to shoot directly from a free kick from around 35 yards out, which turned out to be the wrong decision as it sailed well over the bar.

Despite the improved effort in the closing stages, it was the home side who got the winner after a lofted ball forward dropped to the feet of Kaeit, who hit a measured half volley beyond Panayi.

It was a cruel blow for Cyprus, but they were simply unable to create quality chances throughout the game which ultimately proved costly.

The result leaves Cyprus in fourth position with just two games remaining.

World Cup dream as good as over for Cyprus after late defeat in Estonia

Cyprus suffered a late 1-0 defeat against Estonia on Sunday, effectively ending their hopes of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Confidence was high after their remarkable 3-2 comeback win over Bosnia and Herzegovina on Thursday, and another win would have made things interesting with two games more remaining but Mattias Kaeit’s injury-time strike sees those hopes dashed.

Ran Ben Shimon made two changes to the side that beat Bosnia on Thursday, with Konstantinos Laifis returning to the heart of defence in place of Giorgos Merkis, and Andreas Avraam coming in for veteran Constantinos Charalambidis.

The opening exchanges saw each side battle for control without conjuring up any notable goal-scoring opportunities.

However, Estonia almost got the go-ahead goal out of nothing when Cypriot goalkeeper Konstantinos Panayi, in his attempt to clear the ball, took a little too long and struck Estonia’s Sergei Zenjov though it fortunately went wide.

With a win of the utmost importance for Cyprus in order to keep up any faint qualification hopes, the first half gave little hope of taking the three points. Pieros Soteriou looked an isolated figure up front.

Laifis’ 40-yard attempt which dribbled way wide of the post was the team’s only effort on goal in the whole half, summing up the final-third action of the visitors.

Estonia came close towards the end of the half through Ats Purje who cut inside Jason Demetriou. His strike was heading for the far post but Fanos Katelaris’ touch almost deflected it inside the near stick, though thankfully for Cyprus it went wide for a corner.

The second half started in similar fashion, with very little possession football taking place from either side.

Estonia again looked the likelier of the two to score, this time on the hour mark when a defensive error from Katelaris allowed Henri Anier to run through on goal. Once free of the last man, the midfielder tried a left-footed strike which had Panayi at full stretch, but the effort went just wide of the far post.

Ilja Antonov then crossed in from a free kick and Mattias Kaeit headed goalwards, though it was straight at the keeper.

Time ticked on but there was no sign of Cyprus sustaining any pressure in the final third. But with 12 minutes left, the breakthrough so nearly came when Soteriou threaded a neat pass through to strike partner Christofi. The Omonia struck on target powerfully but the goalkeeper was equal to it.

The chance saw the game open up in the final stages, as Cyprus pushed forward in hope of a late winner. Katelaris opted to shoot directly from a free kick from around 35 yards out, which turned out to be the wrong decision as it sailed well over the bar.

Despite the improved effort in the closing stages, it was the home side who got the winner after a lofted ball forward dropped to the feet of Kaeit, who hit a measured half volley beyond Panayi.

It was a cruel blow for Cyprus, but they were simply unable to create quality chances throughout the game which ultimately proved costly.

The result leaves Cyprus in fourth position with just two games remaining.

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