Scotland move four points clear with win against plucky Cypriots
With the summer of ’89 looming, Scotland were looking to further consolidate their position atop UEFA zone qualifying Group 5. Their start with seven points from a possible eight had brought plenty of optimism, and with a home fixture against expected whipping boys Cyprus next up, even the most pessimistic fan must have been eyeing another twin point. Scotland had, however, found out just how difficult today’s opponents could prove if they were on their game when the pair had met less than three months earlier: 3-2 for the visitors the final result on that occasion in Limassol, with defender Richard Gough’s winning goal coming some six minutes into time added on. Since then, the Scottish had won impressively 2-0 at home to France, with striker Maurice Johnston proving lethal once again with both goals.
Cyprus had lost three from four, and had taken up their expected finishing position at the bottom of the pool. They’d made life very difficult for the French in their opening qualifier, though, gaining a highly creditable 1-1 draw in the process, when left-back Pittas had netted a late equalizer from the penalty spot. In their sole away fixture yet, they’d gone down heavily against the group favourites, though few were expected to return back home from Yugoslavia with anything other than a loss. Well aware of how they’d caused today’s opponents a whole lot of worry early in February, the Cypriots could at least bring some kind of hope into the tie.
The table read as follows beforehand:
Team news Scotland
This was the Scots’ third qualifier within the space of two and a half months, and having overcome both Cyprus away and, lastly, France at home, they were big favourites to maintain their stronghold on the group after this home clash with the Cypriots. Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh had so far made use of 21 players, with the inclusion of experienced winger Gordon Strachan as a playing substitute against the French. Strachan had since earned an eyebrow-raising move from Manchester United to an old arch rival in second division club Leeds United. He was not included in Roxburgh’s squad of 16 for this clash.
With this game taking place eleven days after the horrible Hillsborough tragedy in England, where almost 100 Liverpool fans had perished in the very early moments of the club’s FA Cup semi-final meeting with Nottingham Forest at a neutral venue in Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium, none of the two Liverpool players which had been picked for the game would be taking part. It is likely that central defender Gary Gillespie, who had partnered Alex McLeish, stand-in captain on the day, against France, thus becoming McLeish’ third centre-back colleague in four qualifiers, was out with an injury, as he did not feature at club level since early in April. Steve Nicol, an ever-present for Liverpool during the 1988/89 league season, could have opted out of the squad, like his team mates John Barnes (England) and John Aldridge (Republic of Ireland) had done for matches on this same date.
A third player who had been in the starting eleven against the French, Rangers’ young midfield man Ian Ferguson, was also not in the squad. Add to those Brian McClair of Manchester United and the already mentioned Strachan, there was a total of five changes since their last matchday squad. Coming into the squad were possible debutant defender Dave MacPherson, a 25 year old from Edinburgh club Hearts, Everton’s tricky winger Pat Nevin and Aberdeen’s prolific forward Charlie Nicholas, with six and 19 former caps respectively, in addition to Dundee United’s trusted midfield man Jim McInally (three caps) and Chelsea striker Gordon Durie (capped twice).
Knowing well that it was demanded of them that they win, Scotland had picked plenty of attacking power. There were recognized forwards and strikers in Mo Johnston, Ally McCoist, David Speedie, Kevin Gallacher, Durie and Nicholas. With no less than six players associated with front roles in their respective club sides, would Roxburgh pick a more attacking formation this time around? They had flirted with three centre-backs during the winter, when they’d played Italy away and lost 2-0 in a December friendly. In their four qualifiers hitherto, though, 4-4-2 had been the order of the day.
Team news Cyprus
Cyprus’ previous match had been the dramatic injury time loss against the same Scottish as they were up against tonight. Two and a half months earlier, in Limassol, the Cypriots had given their visitors a big scare, and having been 2-1 up early in the second half, it must have felt almost like an injustice not be be rewarded with at least a point. On this occasion, they would be even greater underdogs, as they had travelled to the Scottish national arena. Anything they could get from this match would certainly be a bonus, as no one expected them to cause an upset.
14 of the 16 who had been in the matchday squad for the home fixture against the Scots were once again prepared to represent their country. The two players absent since the February meeting were defender Kostas Miamiliotis and midfielder Pavlos Savva. The latter had come off during the first half in that 3-2 defeat, although he had not shown any visible indications of an injury. Miamiliotis had been their libero for the first two matches of the qualification, though last time around he’d been pushed into a man-marking job on Mo Johnston.
Coming into the squad for the two players absent was attacking midfielder Panikos Orfanidis, a 27 year old from AEL Limassol, making him a third participant from that team in the squad, with Makis Sokratous and Khristos Koliantris being team mates of his at club level. There was also a player named Khristakis Khristou, though it appears to be difficult to find out much about him. There is record of one Khristos Khristou, a goalkeeper from Omonia Nicosia aged 25, but with two other ‘keepers already counted in the current national team squad, it is hardly likely that manager Iakovou had brought a third goalie to Scotland.
Iakovou had set his charges up in various formations so far. For their two first qualifiers, Cyprus had been in 5-3-2, though for the journey to Yugoslavia, they adopted a 5-4-1 approach. In the home fixture against today’s opponents, they were in what could best be described as a 4-5-1, although hardly a conventional one at that. Could the boss have further tactical plots up his sleeve for this their second away fixture of the ongoing qualification?
Big central defender Andreas Stavrou, who had played the full 90 minutes of their first three qualifiers had missed out on the home meeting with the Scots, and he was absent yet again. Forwards Andreas Kantilos and Evagoras Khristofi had featured in their two opening matches, but had not been seen on the pitch since. A total number of 20 players had got game time during Cyprus’ first four qualifiers.
44 year old Icelandic referee Haraldsson was in demand: He would officiate in a total of three qualifiers ahead of Italia ’90. This was the second of the three, as he’d been in charge of Wales against Finland (2-2) back in October last year. Incidentally, he had made his international debut in this very stadium, as his first task at this level had been Scotland’s home qualifier against Israel (3-1) ahead of the 1982 World Cup. It was almost to the day eight years since his last mission in Glasgow.
Inbetween these two Scotland journeys, Guðmundur Haraldsson had gained invaluable international experience from a total of seven matches, of which six had been qualifiers. He had never before been in charge of Cyprus, and this was also just the second time that he’d run the rule over the Scottish.
One player in tonight’s Scottish squad that Haraldsson had met previously was experienced central defender Alex McLeish. He had played in that 3-1 win against the Israelians.
This was the fourth encounter between the two countries. The first two had taken place in the qualification for the 1970 World Cup, when Scotland had thrashed Cyprus twice: 5-0 away and 8-0 at home. The most recent head to head had come two and a half months earlier, when Scotland had made sure to grab both points courtesy of Richard Gough’s winner deep, deep into injury time. That had been the fifth goal in a lively affair.
|1 Jim Leighton||30||Manchester United|
|2 Richard Gough||27||Rangers|
|3 Maurice Malpas||26||Dundee United|
|4 Roy Aitken (c)||30||Celtic|
|5 Alex McLeish||30||Aberdeen|
|6 Dave MacPherson||25||Heart of Midlothian|
|7 Pat Nevin||sub 74′||25||Everton|
|8 Paul McStay||24||Celtic|
|9 Mo Johnston||26||Nantes|
|10 Ally McCoist||26||Rangers|
|11 Gordon Durie||sub 59′||23||Chelsea|
|12 Andy Goram||25||Hibernian|
|13 Jim McInally||25||Dundee United|
|14 Charlie Nicholas||on 74′||27||Aberdeen|
|15 David Speedie||on 59′||29||Coventry|
|16 Kevin Gallacher||22||Dundee United|
|1 Andreas Kharitou||27||Omonia Nicosia|
|2 Spyros Kastanas||26||Ethnikos Akhnas|
|3 Kharalambos Pittas||sub 68′||22||Apollon Limassol|
|4 Giorgos Khristodoulou||23||Omonia Nicosia|
|5 Makis Sokratous||27||AEL Limassol|
|6 Giannakis Yiangoudakis (c)||30||Apollon Limassol|
|7 Khristos Koliantris||25||AEL Limassol|
|8 Floros Nikolaou||26||Nea Salamina|
|9 Giorgos Savvidis||28||AEK Nea Filadelfeia (Athens)|
|10 Kostas Petsas||28||Omonia Nicosia|
|11 Giannis Ioannou||23||APOEL Nicosia|
|12 Giorgos Pantziaras||36||Apollon Limassol|
|13 Giannakis Ioannou||30||Apollon Limassol|
|14 Panikos Orfanidis||27||AEL Limassol|
|15 Khristakis Khristou|
|16 Antonis Antrellis||on 68′||25||Apollon Limassol|
On this occasion, there is admittedly not a whole lot that we’ve got to go on. Our tape from the game consists merely of highlights, and clocks in at just over 13 minutes in total. Fortunately, we do have some knowledge about both teams from previous qualifiers, and also from Scotland’s friendly away to Italy, so we are able to say with a sound level of confidence how the two teams shape up.
The Hampden stands appear well populated, apart from the curva to the cameras’ right, where there’s huge areas with no people at all. This will later reflect in the attendance figure, which is some 15k lower than against France the previous month. Still, over 50 000 for a game against Cyprus must be considered solid.
Once the marching band have completed their pre-match appearance, dressed in kilts and equipped with bagpipes, the Icelandic referee allows the hosts to proceed with the kick-off, and it is Ally McCoist and Paul McStay, obviously representing each their giant Glasgow club, who get the game under way.
For the hosts, there’s a debutant at the back: Big Hearts central defender Dave MacPherson has got the nod in the absence of several players. MacPherson, 25, becomes regular centre-half Alex McLeish’ fourth partner since the start of the qualification, with Willie Miller, David Narey and Gary Gillespie all having already featured alongside him in the heart of the Scottish defence. McLeish had carried the captain’s armband against the French, but this honour had returned to midfield man Roy Aitken for the visit of the Cypriots.
In goal, there’s another appearance for Manchester United’s Jim Leighton. This was his fourth game of the ongoing qualification, with the home game against Yugoslavia the only one that he’d missed out on. There were also familiar faces at both full-back positions, with the marauding Richard Gough to Leighton’s right and Dundee United’s two-footed stalwart Maurice Malpas playing to the left. Gough had obviously been a big thorn in Cyprus’ side last time the two countries had met, as he’d scored twice, including that deep into injury time-winner, from a total of six goal attempts. Could he exert the same level of attacking influence once again?
Despite fielding a flurry of strikers in their 16 man matchday squad, Scotland were clearly seen in a 4-4-2 from the off. Their midfield consisted of said Aitken alongside his Celtic team mate Paul McStay in the centre, just like in their four previous qualifiers. McStay had probably been their best player altogether so far, with some appearances being of the highest calibre. He was busy, able to perform a high level of pressing, skillful in possession, had a fair shot, and usually their go-to man for central creativity. McStay was capable of opening up an opponent’s defence with intelligent passing, and already at the age of 24 he had clocked up 36 internationals. The Aitken/McStay combination appeared a good fit also at international level, with the former often doing the less visible dirty work just behind his colleague.
Scotland had in Everton’s Pat Nevin probably one of the game’s most typical wingers. As is the case with most outright wide players, they are often either on or off their game. When on song, they can be a major asset, and Roxburgh must have seen in Nevin something of a can-opener out on the right hand side. This was the former Chelsea man’s first involvement since their failed qualification campaign ahead of the 1988 European Championships. Across from him, on the left side of midfield, was Gordon Durie, Nevin’s former team mate at club level in West London. Durie’s inclusion was clearly to add width along the left, although it is seen from our clips that he enjoys to cut inside and contribute more centrally, too. Durie was also on the pitch for the first time during this qualification, and this was only the 23 year old striker’s third appearance for his country.
Like against France, the Scotland manager had opted for the front combination of Maurice Johnston and Ally McCoist. The former had been in prolific form so far, and his twin strike last month had brought him up to five goals from four qualifiers. McCoist, such a menace at club level with Rangers, was seen in country colours for the 15th time, though he had yet to open his account in these qualifiers. He’d notched three times during 1987, though.
Highlights & goal
As there’s no on-screen clock featuring on our tape, it is difficult to say when the various opportunities arrive. The first signs of danger come when Durie is played in along the left and can cut inside and deliever a right-footed shot some 22-23 yards out. His effort has the pace but not the direction to trouble the Cypriots’ goalkeeper, and it goes a couple of yards to the left of the upright. There is, in fact, a lot of activity from Durie from the clips that we have, and next up he wins a left wing corner off Cyprus’ Sokratous. He delievers the flag kick himself, a lofty kick which sails towards the far post, and which the visiting ‘keeper can only get a soft touch to. On the far end is McCoist to hammer a shot goalwards, although the visitors have several players between the Scottish striker and the goalline, and in addition to the angle not favouring McCoist, there does not appear to be a great deal of danger. Kharitou parries the strong shot nevertheless, but aggressive Scots recycle the ball and set debutant MacPherson up for a header which ultimately fails to test the Cypriots.
The highlights that we’ve got to go on may be brief, but they do show a certain familiarity about the Scottish side, and that is their aggression levels, typically winning the ball back high up in the field. This clearly unsettles the visitors, and there is almost panicking tendencies in the Cypriots’ rear lines at times. Scotland use their superior physicality well, and the first half highlights conclude without Leighton even coming into the picture once.
Next is the opening goal, which is a scintillating scissors-kick executed by that man Johnston. The overworked Cypriot defence struggle to clear their lines, and when Nevin is allowed to cross for a second time within a few seconds, the little winger finds Gough at the far end of the area. The Scotland right-back heads it back into the centre, where Khristodoulou makes a mess of his clearance, which only smashes into his central defensive colleague Kastanas, setting Johnston up with his chance to perform an overhead kick. The flame-haired, France based striker connects sweetly, and it is just about as good a striker’s goal as you’ll see, with Kharitou left with no chance to stop the ball from whistling into the back of the net. 26 minutes into the game, the Scottish have the lead. It was hardly unexpected.
The hosts appear to have had a game plan of involving their wide players in order to put crosses into the centre. Nevin had played his part in the opening goal, but Durie had also certainly been well involved so far, and he’s seen again crossing from the left and towards the back post. Kharitou, the Cyprus ‘keeper, seems to struggle in dealing with high balls, and again he flaps at it, this time admittedly challenged by Johnston. The ball’s kept in play by Pittas, but he can not get any conviction behind his attempted clearance, and it is Nevin who can cross from his flank next. Again Johnston’s present in the centre, though even if he manages to get his head to the ball, it drifts harmlessly wide to the right on this occasion.
Visitors in detail
Cyprus had been in 4-5-1 for their home clash with the Scottish, and this seemed to once again be the case. There had been some changes to their starting line-up since their previous game, though, the home defeat against the Scottish, and they’d replaced goalkeeping veteran Giorgos Pantziaras with the considerably younger Andreas Kharitou. The Omonia Nicosia man had played six of their eight qualifiers ahead of the 1988 European Championships, but this was his first appearance in the current qualification. Kharitou was 27 years old.
Whilst Cyprus had played with a distinct five man strong defensive line in Yugoslavia, they were for the second time against Scotland appearing without a recognized right-sided defender. Khristos Koliantris, who had scored their equalizing goal in Limassol when the two teams had met in February, seemed again to be more of a right-sided midfielder than a wide player with big defensive responsibilities, and so this also was something which favoured Scotland’s Durie, with the highlights displaying how he would often be found by his team mates along the Scottish left hand side. Indeed, it could’ve been a game plan by the Scottish to make use of Durie due to the lack of a right-back among the visitors. Antonis Antrellis, who had been their right-back in Belgrade, was only named among the subs on this occasion.
Libero was, for the second qualifier running, Makis Sokratous. The 27 year old of AEL Limassol was winning his tenth cap, and was the third libero in use by manager Panikos Iakovou for the current qualification, succeeding Kostas Miamiliotis (who had incidentally been a man-marking centre-half against the Scottish last time around) and the experienced Andreas Papakostas. Ahead of him were marking duo Giorgos Khristodoulou, a big, uncompromising 23 year old of Omonia, getting his seventh cap, and 26 year old Spyros Kastanas of Ethnikos, who was making his second appearance of this qualification, and his first start. Khristodoulou’s main task was Johnston, whilst Kastanas was attending to McCoist. And while there was no definite right-back in their line-up, Cyprus did have a left-back in Pambos Pittas, the 22 year old Apollon Limassol man gaining his 13th cap. He had possibly been their stand-out performer so far in the qualification, with some fine displays along the left, and in addition he’d scored that late leveller against the French from the penalty spot.
Appearing to sit somewhat deep in midfield were Floros Nikolaou and Kostas Petsas. The former, 26 years old of Nea Salamina, Famagusta, was an ever-present so far in the qualification with five starts out of five, while Petsas had also been involved in three out of their four previous matches, although just once from kick-off. The 28 year old from Omonia was a hard-working player, pretty much in the same mould as his colleague Nikolaou, and this was his fifth country appearance altogether. In a slightly advanced role ahead of them, in something akin to an inside left midfield position, was perennial captain Giannakis Yiangoudakis, the 30 year old of Apollon, and a skillful playmaker. He was equipped with a fine left foot, and was also not afraid to make forward runs. He did possess some quality on the ball, though in a team of such a defensive nature, his qualities rarely saw him dominate games at international level. Koliantris had been mentioned as their right-sided midfielder, while Giannos Ioannou once again was appearing to the left. He had got their 2-1 goal against the Scots last time around, and the APOEL Nicosia forward, 23 years old, was, remarkably, their only player in the eleven on more than a single goal at international level: His previous goal had been his second.
Up top, Cyprus had again stuck their only foreign-based pro, namely Giorgos Savvidis of AEK Athens. The 28 year old appeared to be a mobile forward with decent physical strength, although outnumbered inside the opposition’s half, there was typically not a whole lot he could muster. Cyprus would have needed both Koliantris and Ioannou to support Savvidis from their respective wide positions, although this did rarely appear to be the case.
Right towards the end of the clips from the first half, there’s almost an own goal from Cyprus defender Khristodoulou, as he heads another teasing Durie cross from the Scottish left hand side against his own post. It is a clumsy manoeuvre from the big centre-back, and he is just fortunate that the ball cannons off the upright rather than ends up in the back of his own net.
The goal by Mo Johnston separates the sides at half-time, and according to the commentator for the game, ITV’s Brian Moore, Johnston equalled the seven World Cup goals, including qualification and tournaments proper, scored by Kenny Dalglish and Joe Jordan through his spectacular strike. I can only discover six for Dalglish, though.
The second half highlights that we’re in possession of start with Cyprus’ equalizer. We are well aware that there have been no half-time changes for either side, and there appear to have been no big tactical tweaks either for the second half, with the teams coming back out in more or less the same shape as they’d been during the opening 45 minutes. This is obviously based on the study of the entire second half clips.
Scottish Limassol hero Richard Gough had been guilty of fouling lone Cyprus striker Giorgos Savvidis out by the touchline, some 20 yards from the byline. It did not appear to have been the most necessary of fouls, as Savvidis was hardly going to create havoc. Even if he’d made it past the big defender, his lack of pace would probably have seen him caught before he could get into a crossing position. Scotland had MacPherson covering behind Gough. The decision to award the free-kick was a right one, and up stepped left-back Pittas to swing one into the area with his precise left foot. It had, incidentally, been his quick throw-in which had found Savvidis in the moment preceding the foul. Now Pittas’ cross was met by defensive midfield man Floror Nikolaou some ten yards out from goal, and with a static Maurice Malpas caught ball watching, Nikolaou was able to get a deft touch to it ahead of the left-back, and thus able to guide the ball elegantly into the back of the net with a looping effort. Leighton had probably expected a cross towards the far end of the area, and had come off his goalline. This saw him stranded as the ball sailed over his head for a stunning equalizer. 1-1!
A few minutes prior to the Cypriot equalizer, there had been a first substitution of the game, with Roxburgh withdrawing what had looked like a lively Gordon Durie, or at least from the first half highlights, and replacing him with another former Chelsea team mate of his, now at Coventry: David Speedie. From the remaining few minutes of our tape, it does appear to have been a like for like switch, with Speedie slotting directly into the left-sided attacking midfield position left vacant by Durie.
The Scottish did not sit down and sulk over Nikolaou’s goal, and “keep plugging away, lads!” as a mantra seemed to have worked them a treat on this occasion. Right from kick-off they were back with their tails up, and this would very soon see them rewarded with a second goal, a mere minute after the Cypriot equalizer. The ball had been worked out into a right wing position, where Nevin won a throw-in off Pittas. McStay took it, threw short to Nevin, who held Petsas on an armlength’s distance before returning it to McStay. The Scotland playmaker stepped past a possible challenge from the onrushing Savvidis right on the corner of the 18 yard area, then proceeded to take the ball between Petsas and Sokratous, before making it to the byline where he’d angle a low pass 45 degrees back for McCoist, who arrived just ahead of his marker Kastanas to side-foot it into the back of the net. Pure class by McStay, who was the creator of the goal.
Cyprus would make their one and only change with just over 20 minutes remaining. It is difficult to determine why Iakovou decided to take off left-back Pittas, one of the team’s star players, but perhaps could he be seen with hints of a limp in the clip subsequent to that of McCoist’s goal? I would definitely suggest an injury rather than him having been taken off for tactical reasons. Anyway, coming on was the relatively robust Antonis Antrellis, a 25 year old defender from Apollon, who had played the full 90 minutes at right-back during their loss in Yugoslavia. It does seem, although evidence is scarce, that he might have been slotting into a defensive midfield position, suggesting that Cyprus alter their formation in the process, leaving left-sided midfielder Giannos Ioannou as something akin to a wing back. If this is the case, then who is to say that Pittas did not get substituted for tactical reasons?
There’s no further action in or around the Scottish penalty area, whereas the hosts are direct in their approach when MacPherson’s long ball up from the back is headed into space for McCoist to run on to. The striker is too far wide in the area to be of real goal threat, though he’s once again got ahead of his marker Kastanas, and McCoist gets away something resembling a cross-cum-shot, which almost finds David Speedie on the far post. However, the first Scottish substitute can’t reach it, and the ball runs out of play.
A second substitution made by the hosts sees Nevin taken off for Charlie Nicholas. The latter is clearly much more of a forward than someone favouring a wide spot, and it could well be that Nicholas’ appearance saw Mo Johnston switch out to a right-sided position. Again, it must be emphasized that our video material does not guarantee this to be 100 % correct, but players’ positioning in the final couple of sequences could suggest this.
Right-back Gough had been a massive forward presence last time these two had met, and he would pop up on the far end inside the area to get his head to a deep Johnston cross from the left. Goalkeeper Kharitou had originally wanted to come for the ball, though in realizing he would not get there, he took a step back, and thus he’d committed himself. Fortunately for him, Gough could not direct his looping header on target, seeing the ball go agonisingly wide of the left hand post, with neither McCoist nor Kastanas being able to get a touch in either direction. Similarly, there’s another left wing cross, this time from captain Aitken, towards the back post, and this time it is Johnston who gets on the end of it, heading it goalwards after Kharitou had failed to get a touch to the ball during its flight. Luckily for the visitors, and especially for their somewhat flappy goalkeeper, Khristodoulou is on hand to head it away right on the goalline.
It would certainly appear that Scotland deserved their two points, even if they made hard work of it, conceding from possibly the sole goal opportunity that came the visitors’ way. In the end it was immaterial, as they had collected the two points which had been expected of them, and they were now sitting four points clear at the top of the table, albeit having played two games more than the fancied Yugoslavs. With France against Yugoslavia coming up just three days later, the Scottish would surely be hoping that Ivica Osim and his side could put another dent into French World Cup aspirations.
Cyprus are left with their sole point from five matches, and in four weeks’ time they’re at it again when they travel north to Scandinavia to face Norway.
There’s no reports or visuals of any yellow cards.
Due to the limited video material which we possess from this qualifier, we do not have sufficient evidence to back up any ratings.