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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 19 November 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2016 31 SPORT PHOTO: SPORTSNET.CA Tzavelas the hero in Greek draw with Bosnia GEORGE STOGIANNOU Last Sunday, Greek international Giorgos Tzavelas became the Greek hero of the night when he saved his country from a home defeat with virtually the last kick of the match. His spectacular 20-metre left foot volley flew past Bosnian keeper Asmir Begovic and salvaged a point for Greece against an impressive Bosnia Herzegovnia in a tense World Cup qualifier in Giorgios Kataiskakis Stadium in Piraeus last Sunday. After a cautious opening from both teams, the visitors took the game to the home team and were eventually rewarded with some good fortune when a skilfully struck free kick from dead ball specialist Miralem Pjanic struck the left upright and rebounded onto the back of a diving Greek keeper Orestis Karnezis and into the net for the opening goal on 30 minutes. The visitors continued to threaten the Greek side, although Greece's centre forward Kostas Mitroglou had a great chance to equalise on the stroke of half time, but was foiled by keeper Begovic's smart save. Begovic produced an even better save in the second half to deflect a goal-bound Kostas Fortounis drive onto the woodwork. But the Bosnians still threatened, with dangerman Edin Dzeko forcing two fine saves from Karnezis in the second half. A flare-up late in the second half resulted in Dzeko and Greek defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos receiving their march- ing orders with ten minutes remaining. Deep into injury time and with time fast running out for Greece, Tzavelas connected first time from a rebound, firing home a remarkable equaliser to preserve Greece's unbeaten start to the World Cup qualifying campaign. The result keeps Greece in second place behind the powerful Belgium team, and maintains its three point lead ahead of Bosnia, the team it is tipped to battle with for second place in the group. Greece's next match in the qualifying campaign is in March against group leader Belgium, which maintained its dominant form in the group with an 8-1 crushing of Estonia. Elsewhere in the same group, Cyprus won its first match of the qualifying series when it defeated Gibraltar 3-1 at home. Hosting a team which had never scored an away goal in internationals, the Cypriots, as expected, opened the scoring when Laifis scored in the 27th minute. However in the 51st minute, Gibraltar created history by scoring its first ever away goal though Cascairo, although it soon found itself behind again to the Cypriots through poor defending which allowed Sotiriou to restore the home team's advantage in the 65th. This was followed by an 87th minute Sielis header which sealed the first points in the qualifying rounds for the Cypriots. Cyprus sits in fourth place in Group H, equal with Estonia which it plays in March. Socceroos drop points away to bottom-of-group Thailand GEORGE STOGIANNOU The road to Russia has just got a little bit tougher for the Socceroos, after reaching the half way point of the final stage of World Cup qualifying in third place in the group following a disappointing 2-2 away draw to Thailand last Tuesday. Any preconception that the winless Thai team would sit back and park the bus turned out to be a misconception, especially in the second half, after an opening 20 minutes in which the Socceroos dominated a home team which appeared a little overawed by the reigning Asian champions. In the opening stanza, the Socceroos appeared to attack at will and took the lead through an eighth minute Mile Jedinak penalty. Australia was dominant, with Rogic and Kruse seeing a lot of the ball. The only thing missing was quality with the final product or the final pass. But then the unexpected happened and Thailand scored with virtually its first meaningful attack of the game. Diminutive playmaker Chanathip Songkrasin picked out an overlapping Tristano Do, whose cross was met by Thai striker Teerasil Dangda for a 19th minute equaliser. The goal galvanised the home supporters and coaches and the players responded, growing in confidence and finding their passing rhythm. The Australians, on the other hand, grew more frustrated as they increasingly gave away possession, on a sticky pitch where the bounce seemed to be slower than usual. Coach Postecoglou was visibly annoyed, especially in the second half when the Thais outplayed the Australians. In the 55th minute Thailand went ahead deservedly through a Dangda penalty after skipper Theerathon Bunmathan was bundled over by Matthew Leckie. Postecoglou responded by introducing Nathan Burns and Mark Milligan off the bench for Leckie and MacLaren and they immediately lifted the Socceroos' tempo. The attacking pressure eventually resulted in Australia winning what ap- peared to be a soft penalty for a push on Jedinak, who duly converted in the 63rd minute. Both teams went looking for a winner in the final 25th minute, with both teams stretched. Burns came closest for Australia in the 76th minute when his shot from outside the box skimmed the cross bar. At the other end, the Socceroos had keeper Matt Ryan to thank for a point, when he denied Thai forward Siroth Chatthong from scoring the equaliser in a one on one. After the match, coach Ange Postecoglou told Fox Sports: "Firstly I think we've got to give credit to Thailand. We battled hard and we started well enough. Sometimes we're our own worst ene- my. We gave the ball away cheaply and allowed them to come into the game. "Second half they had us on the back foot and we couldn't really recover. Playing away from home is always tough. You can't fault the players' efforts. We got a bit careless in our ball possession. We couldn't really control the game like we wanted to. As soon as it became a game of end to end, they got into it. It's kind of their game. "From my perspective it's not the way we want to play the game." With Japan defeating Saudi Arabia 2-0 at home, they move into second spot ahead of Australia at the half-way mark of qualifying. On the plus side, the Socceroos are undefeated and will play three of their final five matches at home. "I think we're well placed," said Postecoglou. "We've had three tough away trips and we haven't lost. We're pretty strong at home. From a qualification point of view I certainly don't think there's extra pressure, but that's external buzz. "For us, looking at this series of games, we've come out of it a couple of points short of where we want to be. Tonight give credit to them. They took the game to us and got the point they deserved." The Socceroos’ next qualifying matches are away to Iraq in March followed days later by a home match against UAE.
12 November 2016
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