Iceland – Bulgaria
Iceland had managed to avoid finishing bottom of their previous qualifying group, as they had twice beaten Norway to finish fourth out of five. And apart from a heavy home defeat (6-0) by East Germany, they had never been heavily outscored, losing three away matches by a margin of two goals. Having played once during spring of 1988, a 3-0 defeat in Hungary, this was Iceland’s first test ahead of their qualification start against the Soviet Union by the end of the month. They would also face an Olympic team select from Sweden, as well as entertain their North Atlantic Ocean neighbours Faroe Islands for what would be their visitors’ first ever official international during a busy August month.
Bulgaria were in the middle of their three matches tour of the Nordics, and had played out a dour 1-1 draw in Finland three days earlier. Manager Angelov had made no changes to his starting eleven since then, and the 4-3-3 formation would also be a replica of what he had fielded in Vaasa.
As for Iceland, they were without a few of their foreign legionnaires, most notably West Germany based Ásgeir Sigurvinsson and Anderlecht’s Arnór Guðjohnsen. There were also a couple of players based in Norway missing in goalkeeper Bjarni Sigurðsson, thus giving Friðriksson the opportunity to stake his claim for a place in the team against the Soviet Union, and midfielder Gunnar Gíslason. Other than that they looked to be at near full strength, and their West German manager would line them up in a 5-3-2, with the massively experienced Eðvaldsson as their libero. Eðvaldsson had once scored an incredible five times in a Bundesliga match for Fortuna Düsseldorf, a West German record for a foreign player.
This was the first ever encounter between Iceland and Bulgaria.
Referee was vastly experienced Swede Erik Fredriksson, aged 45. He had officiated both during the European Championships in France ’84 and West Germany in ’88, as well as in the ’86 World Cup in Mexico. This was his no less than 33rd international fixture, so the players appeared to be in the hands of capable authorities.
There was no rain this afternoon in the Icelandic capital, but the strong winds will have made it a rather blustry occasion nevertheless. It would be the home side kicking off with the wind behind them for the first half.
|1 Friðrik Friðriksson||23||B1909 Odense|
|2 Ólafur Þórðarson||22||Akranes|
|3 Guðni Bergsson (c)||23||Valur|
|4 Pétur Ormslev||30||Fram|
|5 Viðar Þorkelsson||25||Fram|
|6 Sævar Jónsson||30||Valur|
|7 Atli Eðvaldsson||31||Valur|
|8 Sigurður Jónsson||sub 83′||21||Sheffield Wednesday|
|9 Sigurður Grétarsson||26||Luzern|
|10 Ragnar Margeirsson||sub h-t||25||Keflavík|
|11 Ómar Torfason||27′||29||Fram|
|12 Guðmundur Hreiðarsson||27||Víkingur|
|13 Þorvaldur Örlygsson||22||K.A. Akureyri|
|14 Pétur Arnþórsson||on 83′||23||Fram|
|15 Halldór Áskelsson||on h-t||23||Þór Akureyri|
|16 Arnljótur Davíðsson||19||Fram|
|1 Iliya Valov||26||CFKA Sredets|
|2 Pavel Dochev||sub h-t||22||Lokomotiv Sofia|
|3 Zapryan Rakov||26||Trakia Plovdiv|
|4 Dimitar Vasev||24′||22||Lokomotiv Sofia|
|5 Nikolay Iliev (c)||24||Vitosha|
|6 Trifon Ivanov||sub h-t||23||CFKA Sredets|
|7 Hristo Stoichkov||sub 87′||22||CFKA Sredets|
|8 Ayan Sadakov||26||Lokomotiv Plovdiv|
|9 Lyubo Penev||77′||21||CFKA Sredets|
|10 Georgi Yordanov||25||Vitosha|
|11 Bozhidar Iskrenov||sub h-t||26||Vitosha|
|13 Iliyan Kiryakov||on h-t||21||Etar|
|14 Ivaylo Kirov||on h-t||22||CFKA Sredets|
|15 Petar Aleksandrov||on 87′||25||Slavia Sofia|
|16 Atanas Pashev||on h-t||24||Trakia Plovdiv|
Iceland were more 5-3-2 than 3-5-2, as both their wide players, and in particular Þórðarson on the right, predominantly kept a defensive focus. The experienced Eðvaldsson, surprisingly not with the captain’s armband, swept, and had the powerful Sævar Jónsson and captain for the occasion Guðni Bergsson ahead of him. The two Icelandic ‘man-markers’ were not working as such, as Penev, the Bulgarian centre-forward, would rather draw the attention of the libero, or he would come deep to participate in build-ups. Þórðarson needed to engage with Stoichkov, who was operating very far to the left for most of the first half at least. Iskrenov opposite had more of a tendency to come inside, and thus Bergsson was more in direct combat than his mate Jónsson at the back. It could well have been so that Bulgaria had meant to avoid Sævar Jónsson, as he was a physically imposing player.
Both teams were operating with a holding midfielder, but the roles of Sigurður Jónsson and Ivanov respectively were different. Ivanov was no distributor like the Icelandic number 8; he was more an enforcer. The Icelandic midfield was probably lacking a destructive kind of player, as both Torfason (right) and Ormslev were equipped with other qualities: the former probably better in making runs into the heart of the Bulgarian defence off the ball, and Ormslev a rather skillful kind of player on the ball. Having scored the first, he would also have a big hand in the second, before missing a second half penalty with the score tied at 2-2. As three days previously, Bulgaria had the potentially excellent Yordanov in the playmaking role to the left ahead of Ivanov, and with the strong-running Sadakov completing the midfield.
Up front, Iceland saw Grétarsson, very much a left-footed player, seek the territory towards Bulgaria’s left-back Vasev, from where he would want to cut inside and strike with his favourite (and really only) foot, but it was a tactics he never really got the chance to implement as the home side rarely came forward with a lot of men and intent. Grétarsson would often struggle to make an impact, leaving a bit of a light-weight impression. His forward partner Margeirsson was a somewhat more defensive kind of player, at times lending his midfield a hand, and not imposing himself on the Bulgarian backline a lot. This backline saw captain Iliev sweep as per tradition, with Rakov just ahead of him in the centre, and with Dochev a more modest full-back going forward than “Mite” Vasev on the left.
For the start of the second half:
Iceland had made just the one change, with a like for like switch seeing Áskelsson on in Margeirsson’s place.
The visitors had made two half-time changes three days earlier during the dull 1-1 draw with Finland, and this time around manager Angelov had replaced no less than three players: At right-back Kiryakov was on for the more defensively-natured Dochev, in midfield Kirov replaced anchor man Ivanov, making sure Sadakov slotted into the position that Ivanov had held, and Kirov himself working as the right-sided central midfielder. Like against the Finns, Iskrenov had again been substituted at half time, and again it was Pashev coming on. This time around the latter would start wide left of the three man attack, with Stoichkov switching for the central role, and with Penev slightly to the right of the three, though never as wide as Iskrenov had been during the first half. And nevertheless the three would rarely stick to each their position, but instead keep fluctuating throughout the second half, where Bulgaria were wind assisted. Being a goal behind, and having the strong wind working in their favour, Bulgaria were almost gung-ho from the outset in the second half, especially since they brought their full-backs forward to quite an extent.
There’s two further substitutions late on in the match, one for each team. The home side bring on Pétur Arnþórsson for central midfielder ‘Siggi’ Jónsson. This sees Torfason round the match off in Jónsson’s central position, with substitute Arnþórsson in Torfason’s more expressive role. As for the visiting team, they bring forward Petar Aleksandrov on for Stoichkov with a few minutes left on the clock. There is no particular pattern as to what position the three Bulgarian forwards maintain towards the end of the game, possibly with Penev as the central and slightly deeper, and with Pashev and Aleksandrov deciding between themselves which should play along which flank. However, there is more play happening down the Bulgarian left hand side than opposite, and the left is also Aleksandrov’s favoured side. It is from centre left he appears to head home the injury time winner.
Bulgaria had faced very direct opposition three days earlier in Finland, and they must have been a bit unsure what to expect upon their arrival in the Icelandic capital. Nevertheless they took to the pitch with an identical starting eleven that had stood up to the physical test against the Finns. This meant that even some of the players who had failed to impress in Vaasa would get another chance to prove their worth. It was felt that in particular Iskrenov had something to prove, though with 45 previous caps to his name he might have felt that he had done enough in the past to let people realize what he’s about.
The home side included a few players who were trying to get into the World Cup qualifying team, and so one could be expecting a big fight from Iceland. Yet they were a bit of an uncertain quantity. Just how direct would they be? Surely, nothing like Finland, but again the stereotype comes into the reckoning when talking about a Nordic country up against one from South East Europe, where teams from the Balkans are famous for being orientated towards possession play. Again, two contrasting styles were to expect, but perhaps not to the extent that had been on display on the Finnish west coast.
Bulgaria saw to kick-off through forwards Penev and Iskrenov. Inside the first ten seconds we were acquainted with a scene which would become a familiar sight throughout the match: Stoichkov attacking the home side’s right-sided defender/defensive midfielder Þórðarson. They would enjoy some interesting tussles as the game progressed. Despite the Sredets forward’s rise to prominence, the Akranes man went about his task without too much respect and with no fear. Stoichkov would be the more keen among the three man strong Bulgarian forward line to leave an impression, yet he would never have it all his way against the broad-chested Þórðarson.
There was quite a strong wind blowing in favour of the hosts in the first period, and when the visitors on rare occasions attempted booted clearances, the ball would not travel very far, and rarely past the halfway line. However, Bulgaria knew they possessed enough skill to keep the ball among themselves and put the home side’s defence to the test, and so they wisely knocked the ball about and let the Icelandic players do the running. However, they were dealt a severe set-back as early as the fifth minute, when giant centre-back Sævar Jónsson struck a free-kick low towards goal from 25 yards. He did get a bit of power behind it, but not so much that it should have duly worried Valov, the visiting ‘keeper. However, Valov must have either underestimated the force of the ball’s flight or taken his eyes off it, because he conceded a rebound which went straight onto the foot of midfielder Ormslev, who put the hosts ahead.
Bulgaria had tried to alter their formation during the second half in Finland, however, without much success. This appeared to be a squad set for 4-3-3 rather than the failed attempt at 4-4-2, which saw them concede the initiative to the Finns. Again, they were with Iliev as captain and sweeper, a role with which the big man was becoming well acquainted by now. And he would have Rakov alongside him in the heart of the defence, as well as the familiar faces of Dochev and Vasev on the full-backs. The Bulgarian back four looked quite settled at this point. They could be challenged for pace; was there enough of this particular craft in their defence? Not that they needed to be too worried to be challenged for pace by Iceland. The home side had two strikers not with an abundance of speed. Margeirsson appeared to be a type of forward wanting to shield the ball from defenders, and he could surely put himself about a bit, but he did not possess a lot of tempo to try and outrun the visiting defenders. The fleet-footed Grétarsson was entering his tenth year as a full international despite only being 26, and he had been in both Greece and in West Germany plying his trade before he made it to Swiss topflight club Luzern in the mid 80s, where he still featured. Grétarsson would often engage Bulgaria’s left-back Vasev, and before 15 minutes had been played, referee Fredriksson had given the pair a talking to for some verbal outbursts in each other’s direction. Just after the midway point of the first half, Vasev would pick up the game’s first booking, though it appeared to be a poor decision by the highly experienced Swedish referee, as Vasev’s challenge that time had not even prevented Grétarsson escaping with the ball.
Just after Ormslev’s goal, Bulgaria win their first of three first-half free-kicks just outside the hosts’ penalty area. Stoichkov is allowed to strike, despite the presence of both Penev and not least Yordanov. His effort is wasted. The set-piece hierarchy of the Bulgarians will be debated during their opening qualifier, the home fixture against their old adversaries Romania. And as Bulgaria press for a quick equalizer, Iskrenov has an effort from 20 yards beat away for a left wing corner by Friðriksson after the forward had held off the attention of Iceland’s libero Eðvaldsson. It had been an eventful opening to the match, certainly a better spectacle than had been dished out in Finland. It felt like a pity that less than 1500 spectators had turned up, but football was still not the major pastime for the people in Iceland. To the extent that it could be said of Icelandic people that they paid attention to sports, handball appeared to be held in higher regard even at this point. Their men’s handball team had featured in international tournaments and gained some creditable results.
Like the visitors, Iceland, with their West German manager, were playing with a libero, something not always seen among Nordic teams. In fact, one would instead often associate teams from the northern parts of Europe to be playing with square backlines, though Sigfried Held had broken with Nordic customs in deploying a five man defence with a spare man behind two central defenders. Fittingly, it was the experienced Atli Eðvaldsson, with nine full seasons to his name in the West German top flight, who marshalled the defensive troops. However, and oddly, he was not captain, as this honour had gone to the far younger Guðni Bergsson, with whom Eðvaldsson was now a team mate in the domestic league with leading Reykjavík club Valur. In fact, even the remaining stopper hailed from Valur: the rugged Sævar Jónsson. The Bulgarian forwards did not appear to have an appetite for combat with the big Icelandic number 6. However, it was inevitable that Stoichkov would cross paths with him, as he was the most left-sided of the visitors’ forwards, and Sævar Jónsson was the right-sided central defender. The lurking Penev would often chose to come deep for the ball, and would thus avoid direct confrontation with the home side’s defence.
Iceland were far from as direct as you could have expected. In fact, they liked to keep the ball on the ground, trying to play their way forward through midfield. They could try to instigate an attack from the back through either of the three central defenders, and in midfield the England based youngster Sigurður Jónsson, nicknamed ‘Siggi’, just like the other Sigurður, was the one they were looking for in order to distribute further. The 21 year old was in the holding, central position, and to the left of him was Peter Ormslev, another player quite capable on the ball and willing to be engaged. However, they lacked a bit of bite up front, where Margeirsson was rather anonymous, rarely able to shake off either Rakov or Iliev, and with Grétarsson typically interested in going a round or two around himself before moving on to try and become a threat, in which he would not really succeed. Yet it was in a rare foray across to the left hand side of the pitch that Grétarsson would bring about the free-kick from which Iceland would increase their lead. Rakov had been a bit too eager in trying to win the ball at the number 9’s back, and when Ormslev swung a right-footed kick into the box, it was Bulgaria’s anchor man Ivanov who unfortunately diverted the ball past his own ‘keeper as he failed in his attempt to clear with his head. Ormslev had been credited with the goal in a few media, but surely it has to go down as an own goal by the visitors’ number 6. From an effort and a half on goal, Iceland were two goals to the good. The wind might have played a contributing factor, as accurate and direct passes forward were hardly the simplest task for the visitors.
Despite being 2-0 down, Bulgaria kept plugging away, not losing faith in their pre-match plan. The assureness that they struck the ball around with was superior to that of the home side, and they did not even lose discipline despite the poor start. Yordanov was their main source of inspiration for creativity in midfield, and they would look to him to play either of their three forwards in. Among them, Penev had had a bit of a slow start, not being involved a lot in and around the Icelandic penalty area, whereas Iskrenov and in particular Stoichkov were looking lively. Gradually, though, Iskrenov would disappear and Penev would grow into proceedings. His coming deep to be part of build-up play was an often used move by the Bulgarians by now, and when Penev felt a greater sense of being involved he would also be more successful in his touches.
Only three minutes after the somewhat confusing yellow for Vasev, there was another and possibly even more odd booking for Iceland’s midfield runner Torfason. Sadakov, playing with socks around his ankles and no shin pads during the first half (he appeared for the second half with his socks up) had jumped to escape an attempted tackle from the Fram man. Torfason’s tackle had not been particularly forceful, and he did not even catch Sadakov. Yet the Bulgarian went down clutching his ankle, and referee Fredriksson bought into the play acting and gave the home side’s number 11 a yellow. Perhaps he had realized that his booking for Vasev had been on the harsh side and so had felt the need to even things out. However, it was an almost baffling decision by such an experienced referee.
Sadakov is not a player you expect to see on the ball a lot. He is usually full of steam, full of running in the Bulgarian midfield, keeping things lively. He is not someone typically distributing or transporting the ball, which are tasks best left for Yordanov to deal with. Yet Sadakov twice gets into shooting positions during the opening 45 minutes: He has an early effort from distance with his right foot, which goes to the right of Friðriksson’s post, and then he will finish high and wild with the inside of his right foot when Dochev has crossed from the right wing into the penalty area.
At 2-0 down, the visitors were at times seen a bit frustrated, and this was probably more evident in the stylish and elegant Yordanov than in anyone else. He would keep onto the ball in midfield, trying to find someone further afield to aim at, but at times movement was scarce, especially when he was high up in the pitch and the home side’s defenders were keeping a close watch on the Bulgarian forwards inside the penalty area. Iceland appeared to be well organised, with Eðvaldsson marshalling his defence with authority. Yordanov would try to play a pass, then he would change his mind and make an extra little turn on the ball, before he would try again. It all lead to the visitors’ attacking play becoming a bit static and predictable. It would take a touch of magic for them to score without increasing their level of movements off the ball.
Bulgaria would get their invitation back into the game as Þórðarson had been a bit careless with Stoichkov just outside the penalty area. Yordanov expertly dealt with the free-kick to reduce the arrears. He would not score a lot of goals in the national team, Yordanov, but he had executed this one with grace; it was exactly what he had in his locker. His right foot was at best sublime.
There’s an uneventful next ten minutes until right before the half-time whistle, when Dochev makes a meal of either clearing the ball away or giving it back to his own ‘keeper, and as Ormslev is breathing down his neck, the Icelandic midfielder escapes with the ball and is in with an opportunity to finish. However, his strike goes into the legs of Valov, who saves Dochev’s blushes. Iceland get to the rebound, but as Ormslev is about to cross the ball back inside for left flank Þorkelsson, the referee signals for half time. The boos reverberate around the sparsely populated ground. Surely, Mr Fredriksson could have let the home side finish their attack? As it were, it was half time, and with Iceland 2, Bulgaria 1 on the scoreboard, the home side could be pleased. The visitors would feel they were still in with a chance of turning the score around after Yordanov’s fine strike, and in the second half they would be playing with the wind in their backs.
Kick-off was through the recently arrived Halldór Áskelsson and Grétarsson as the home side got the half under way. Áskelsson had replaced the fairly anonymous Margeirsson. He seemed a leaner figure, and looked like someone who possibly had a bit of speed in his legs, so would Iceland be able to play to his strengths? One idea could be to try and involve the flank players a bit more than they had done during the first half. Especially Þorkelsson on the left had been left unemployed for large parts of the first period, as most of the home side’s play either went through Jónsson in central midfield or they were looking for Grétarsson to the right in attack. Þorkelsson, though, did seem to struggle with his first touch, and he was never able to make inroads against Dochev. Þórðarson opposite was far more powerful, but he lacked the pace and the trickery to make it past a man in a one on one challenge.
Bulgaria had made no less than three half time changes, and one was bringing winger Atanas Pashev on for the disappointing Iskrenov. It appeared that Pashev took to the left hand side (he had been playing on the right for his second half appearance in Finland), with Stoichkov coming into the centre and with Penev slightly to Stoichkov’s right. Stoichkov had shown moments of promise during the opening half, and in a more central role he could perhaps be involved even more. The first opportunity to have a go falls again to Yordanov, whose right foot shot from the left hand channel puts Friðriksson to the test, a challenge the goalkeeper is equal to as he fists the ball away for a corner kick.
They have made a change in midfield, Bulgaria, by taking off Ivanov, who had perhaps been surplus to requirements in a defensive role during the first half. Or he was at least thought to be so in a second half in which it was expected that the visitors would be on the front foot chasing another goal or two. So in his place came the more capable ball player Ivaylo Kirov, something which meant that Sadakov would take over in the midfield holding role, thus bringing other qualities into this role than what Ivanov had originally brought. Kirov took over Sadakov’s position as the right-sided central man. Another change had been at full-back, where the attack-minded Kiryakov came on for Dochev in another move inspired by the visitors’ desire to level the scores.
It really is all Bulgaria from kick-off, and the hosts need to be alert and focused in keeping the visitors at an armlength’s distance. After Yordanov’s effort which had been tipped over, it would be Stoichkov to have an attempt with his left foot from inside the area, though usually equipped with precision, his accuracy lets him down as he can’t even hit the target. And moments later it is the busy Yordanov yet again who makes Friðriksson work from an almost identical position to earlier, perhaps this time even further out wide left. Again the home ‘keeper has to tip the ball over for another corner. One can sense how Bulgaria’s equalizer is only a matter of moments away. The home side lack players with authority higher up the pitch, and when they try to play it forward, the ball will usually only find its way back inside the Icelandic half sooner rather than later. Neither Grétarsson nor Áskelsson are able to hold the ball up in order to bring others into attack.
Another way to offer some respite to the home defence is through letting Sigurður Jónsson carry the ball forward. He is quite powerful for someone his age, but has been nurtured through several years already playing in the tougher climate of English football. Ormslev feeds him inside their own half, and he is able to ride a couple of tackles and bring the ball into the Bulgarian half, where their attack is thwarted when Vasev comes across to deny Grétarsson to the left inside the visitors’ penalty area. Subsequently, the away team will go on the attack themselves and get their deserved equalizer. It had been midfielder Jónsson who had lost the ball dangerously outside his own penalty area, and as Stoichkov was looking to capitalize, the ball broke to Penev, who turned away from Eðvaldsson on the edge of the area and fired an unstoppable left-footed effort into the far right corner of the goal. One would at times find oneself wondering exactly what Penev brought to the Bulgarian attack, and then he would come up with a trick like this. It was an exquisite finish, delievered with pace and precision. The scores were back level and there was still plenty of time for further goals.
Having clawed their way back to 2-2, Bulgaria might have let their concentration levels drop, and in a burst of attack Iceland were awarded a penalty when Grétarsson was being tugged back by Vasev inside the area. Ormslev, who had already had a hand in both goals as well as their great opportunity right before half time, disappointingly strikes his penalty in a perfect ‘keeper’s height, and it is also too much in the centre of goal, hardly even making Valov bend to parry it. It had to be said also that Áskelsson had done a clever bit of play in the moment leading up to the penalty, as he fended off Rakov before threading the pass through for Grétarsson. Torfason had been first to Valov’s rebound, but the ball had bounced too high for him to have a clear strike at goal from only a few yards out, and he had been disturbed by Iliev nevertheless.
During the opening half, Bulgaria had been awarded no less than three free-kicks just outside the home team’s penalty area. Stoichkov had struck the first, but only disappointingly wide. Yordanov had scored with their second effort, before he had had another attempt blocked by the defensive wall. As they are awarded another free-kick in a decent position after Ormslev’s missed penalty, it appears to be Yordanov who will have another go, as the position is to the left of the area and so clearly better suited for someone with a right foot to aim at goal than a left-footer. Yet it is Penev who steals in on the act and strikes his kick disappointingly into the wall of home players. Stoichkov, a mere spectator, is frustrated, and probably felt he could have done better.
The decision to take Ivanov off and bring Kirov on in midfield seemed a good one in the circumstances. Normally, a midfield trio consisting of Sadakov, Yordanov and Kirov would not have enough defensive fibres to operate in a triumvirate at international level, but when chasing goals and with the wind behind them against a lowly opponent, they combined well to exert pressure on the home side. Kirov had not made much of an impression against the Finns, but he would do alright here, using his close control to good effect and bringing others into play. Sadakov was transporting the ball at a greater frequency in his new role after the break, but the level of pressure from Iceland’s midfield players was hardly great, so even if it wasn’t Sadakov’s ideal feature, he was doing ok in this for him unusual role. And Yordanov kept being a threat with his shooting accuracy, making Iceland wanting to close him down at all costs.
The Bulgarian forward three are again good at rotating their positions, though usually Pashev will be found as an outright winger, and it is up to Stoichkov and Penev to inter-switch. Despite playing in a more central position after the break, one is left with the feeling that Stoichkov had been a greater threat during the first half in his wide left role. Penev, after his goal, is playing with his tail up, and could perhaps have considered himself a tad unfortunate not to have a penalty awarded after tripping over Eðvaldsson’s outstretched foot as he tried to turn the libero inside the area. Only moments later he will see yellow when he does not retreat away as the home side are trying to play a quick free-kick inside the Bulgarian half, and as Penev sticks his foot out to stop the ball in reaching its destination, Fredriksson has seen enough to warrant a booking for the Sredets striker.
Bulgaria are making Iceland’s Denmark based ‘keeper Friðriksson work for his salary, and from another effort from distance, it is surprisingly central defender Rakov who is next in line to have a go. Again the youthful looking goalie has to beat the ball away for a corner kick. From this one the ball will eventually drop for Pashev to have a strike from close range after Kiryakov’s cross following Penev’s short corner. However, the ‘keeper is again equal to the threat, and somehow Iceland hang on to their ‘point’. Pashev really ought to have done better, as he had brought the ball down well only to hurry his shot too much and hit it straight at Friðriksson.
As Iceland manager Held decides to take Sigurður Jónsson off to replace him with Pétur Arnþórsson, the crowd again express their displeasure. The Sheffield Wednesday player might have lost the ball in the situation leading up to the Bulgarian equalizer, but he had also been the most prominent home player in advancing with the ball at his feet, and he was a darling among the fans. It could be, however, that Jónsson had tired, and so it would be Torfason to enter Sigurður Jónssons role as the central of the three midfielders, with the substitute appearing in Torfason’s role to the right of centre. A few minutes later, Bulgaria boss Angelov would bring on his final substitute as Petar Aleksandrov came on for Stoichkov. He looks to go to the right in attack, but again there will be positional switches between their forwards.
There’s a hairy moment for the visitors as Ormslev sets up Bergsson, who’s made a rare run up from the back, to get to the byline inside the Bulgarian penalty area, though as he tries to find Grétarsson in front of goal, Vasev manages to throw himself in front of the striker to block Grétarsson’s effort. The full-back might just have saved a goal. He would need some treatment for his efforts. And just as Iceland feel they have done enough to earn a draw, Kirov releases fellow substitute Kiryakov on the right wing to put a cross into the centre. He manages to find Aleksandrov, who’s made a run towards the far post, and the last of the Bulgarian substitutes powers a header beyond Friðriksson’s reach to complete the visitors’ comeback. They are elated at the late goal, which would surely prove to be the winner.
There is not a lot of time for the home side to try and find an equalizer. Yet there is time for Valov to go to the ground and feel in need of treatment. Later, we will learn that the Bulgarian ‘keeper has a tendency to go down easily, and even to be substituted. This particular bit of antics is preceeding what will follow. However, it kills enough time for the visitors to see the game out, and the home side can hardly have any complaints to leave the pitch on the receiving end of a 3-2 scoreline.
Without the visitors properly knowing what’s hit them, Iceland are two goals up. However, the assured Bulgarians never let their heads drop, and the go about their task as if scores were still level, discipline levels intact. Heading into the wind they do not create a lot of opportunities during the first half, though they do pull a goal back from a fine Yordanov free-kick. In the second half they will pin the hosts back inside their own half, and they would create a number of opportunities to bring the scores level. When Penev has a fine turn and shot from the edge of the area, it is a well deserved equalizer. The home side can only sporadically threaten the visitors’ goal, but should have gone back in front when Ormslev fails to convert a penalty. In the end this will prove costly as the fourth Bulgarian substitute Aleksandrov will head home at the far post in injury time to nick the win for the visitors. Having come from two goals down, it was a win they had deserved based on chances created.
1 Friðrik Friðriksson 7.1
2 Ólafur Þórðarson 6.8
3 Guðni Bergsson 6.8
4 Pétur Ormslev 7.1
5 Viðar Þorkelsson 6.4
6 Sævar Jónsson 6.7
7 Atli Eðvaldsson 6.9
8 Sigurður Jónsson 6.8
9 Sigurður Grétarsson 6.6
10 Ragnar Margeirsson 6.3
(15 Halldór Áskelsson 6.4)
11 Ómar Torfason 6.6
1 Valov 6.7
2 Dochev 6.6
(13 Kiryakov 6.9)
3 Rakov 6.7
4 Vasev 6.9
5 Iliev 6.8
6 Ivanov 6.6
(14 Kirov 6.8)
7 Stoichkov 7.1
(15 Aleksandrov -)
8 Sadakov 7.0
9 Penev 7.0
10 Yordanov 7.3
11 Iskrenov 6.4
(16 Pashev 6.7)