35 crushing minutes enough for handsome home win
22 days after their comeback win against France, Yugoslavia were at it on home soil yet again, this time with a Sunday afternoon fixture. A cold Belgrade had invited Cyprus to town, and though it was early days yet, the table was beginning to shape up. If Yugoslavia were to take an expected maximum allowance of points today, they would be in the driver’s seat ahead of the spring fixtures. In fact, Scotland, against whom Yugoslavia had managed a fine 1-1 draw away from home, were set to feature three times before the Yugoslavs themselves returned to qualification action. Two of those were against today’s visitors Cyprus, who were propping up the table just like had been expected beforehand. However, they’d managed that astonishing draw against the French, and this would need to be in the back of the minds of the Yugoslav players and management.
The table thus far:
Yugoslavia team news
Yugoslavia’s 3-2 win against France had been a fine achievement, and one which had taken them right to the table summit. They were in line to further consolidate their position in this home fixture against lowly Cyprus, who were hardly expected to prove much of a threat to Yugoslav World Cup aspirations.
14 Yugoslav players remained from the squad of three weeks earlier, with two explainable omissions. They were midfield man Srečko Katanec, who was suspended following yellow cards against Scotland and France, and striker Borislav Cvetković, who had not been released by Ascoli. The Serie A club were in league action the same day, playing Cesena (Davor Jozić’ club; Jozić had been released) at home and ultimately drawing 1-1.
Into the squad had come left-sided player Dragoljub Brnović of Partizan Belgrade. The 25 year old was in line for his ninth cap, and had last featured when he came on as a late substitute during the 1-1 draw in Glasgow. The second new entry was striker Dragan Jakovljević, a 26 year old from Sarajevo, who so far had recorded three internationals. His last participation in country colours had been a 1-1 spring friendly draw with Italy in Split. Jakovljević had indeed notched the Yugoslav equalizer on that occasion, and his return of two goals in three appearances was decent enough. Would he be thrust straight into the starting eleven in place of Cvetković? And how would Ivica Osim replace Katanec?
Osim was a competent tactician, and he was able to deploy various formations. Yugoslavia had come with five across the back in Scotland, whilst they’d reverted to a four man defensive line against the French. Against inferior opposition, what could the Belgrade crowd expect on this occasion?
Cyprus team news
Cyprus had lost heavily at home to Norway, a team they would’ve been hoping to get something from after their 1-1 draw against France earlier, five and a half weeks prior to arriving in Belgrade, and since then they’d drawn 1-1 in a friendly away to fellow Mediterranean islanders Malta. It is likely that manager Panikos Iakovou had been using the fixture in Valletta to try out the formation which he’d had in mind for the journey to Yugoslavia. They had been without their talismanic captain Giannakis Yiangoudakis for the friendly. He was back now. Another player which had been missing in Malta was fellow midfielder Pavlos Savva, who was also in contention this time around.
Manager Iakovou must have been aware what a mighty task his boys were facing, and perhaps had their idea all along been to focus on damage limitation. They had been set up in 5-3-2 against France and also, most likely, against the Norwegians, although we do admittedly not possess any video footage for confirmation from that tie. In Valletta, though, it would appear that they had either been in 5-4-1 or 5-2-3. What would be their outline in the infamous Marakana stadium?
We have no information regarding who were Cyprus’ unused substitutes in Malta, so in regards to squad changes, we need to look back to the fixture against Norway. Since then, six players who had been in the 16 man matchday squad were nowhere to be seen. They were young back-up goalkeeper Andreas Petridis, defender Konstantinos Miamiliotis, attacking midfielders Khristos Koliantris and Giannos Ioannou, as well as forwards Andreas Kantilos and Giorgos Savvidis. In place for the six had come 26 year old goalkeeper Andreas Kharitou, experienced libero Andreas Papakostas (whose exact age remains in the blue), wide defender Antonis Antrellis, as well as midfielder Panikos Khatziloizou and forwards Mario Tsingis and Giannakos Ioannou (not to be confused with Giannos Ioannou). The latter had won his debut and played the full 90 minutes against the Maltese.
By far Cyprus’ most meritted player was captain Yiangoudakis, whose next cap would be his 40th. Next in line was Tsingis, who currently had clocked up 23.
Man in black was a 46 year old who would actually make his debut on the international stage: Bulgarian Todor Kolev had been appointed. During the 1986/87 season, he had been placed in charge of APOEL Nicosia’s first round European Cup tie at home to HJK Helsinki, which the Cypriots had won by the only goal of the game (Pantziaras, Stavrou and Giannos Ioannou had featured). Could this be a fine omen for the away side? Kolev had also refereed Yugoslav side Dinamo Zagreb in their 2-0 home win against Beşiktaş in the first round of the current season’s UEFA Cup. One player in today’s Yugoslav matchday squad had played (and scored both goals): Radmilo Mihajlović. A certain Zvonimir Boban had also been in the Zagreb side that day.
The two countries had also been in the same qualification group ahead of the 1980 European Championships, when Yugoslavia had won comfortably on both occasions: 3-0 away and 5-0 at home. A total of four players from the two teams were still among the 32 matchday selectees: Zlatko Vujović and Safet Sušić from the home side, and Giorgos Pantziaras and Mario Tsingis for the Cypriot team. Vujović had scored the third Yugoslav goal that day in Novi Sad, on November 14 1979. Other than that, Yugoslavia and Cyprus had never crossed paths.
It appeared to be a wet and cold afternoon in Belgrade, with plenty of umbrellas on display from the game’s early moments.
|1 Tomislav Ivković||28||Wiener SC|
|2 Vujadin Stanojković||25||Vardar Skopje|
|3 Predrag Spasić||sub h-t||23||Partizan Beograd|
|4 Dragoljub Brnović||25||Partizan Beograd|
|5 Faruk Hadžibegić||31||Sochaux|
|6 Davor Jozić||28||Cesena|
|7 Dragan Stojković||23||Crvena Zvezda|
|8 Safet Sušić||33||Paris Saint-Germain|
|9 Dejan Savićević||22||Crvena Zvezda|
|10 Mehmed Baždarević||28||Sochaux|
|11 Zlatko Vujović (c)||30||Cannes|
|12 Fahrudin Omerović||27||Partizan Beograd|
|13 Goran Jurić||on h-t||25||Crvena Zvezda|
|14 Refik Šabanadžović||23||Crvena Zvezda|
|15 Dragan Jakovljević||26||Sarajevo|
|16 Radmilo Mihajlović||24||Dinamo Zagreb|
|1 Giorgos Pantziaras||42′||36||Apollon|
|2 Antonis Antrellis||43′||25||Apollon|
|3 Kharalambos Pittas||22||Apollon|
|4 Andreas Papakostas||Aris|
|5 Andreas Stavrou||30||APOEL|
|6 Giannakis Yiangoudakis (c)||29||Apollon|
|7 Pavlos Savva||58′||23||AEL|
|8 Floros Nikolaou||60′||26||Nea Salamina|
|9 Giorgos Khristodoulou||sub 65′||23||Omonia|
|10 Giannakis Ioannou||10′, sub 78′||29||Apollon|
|11 Marios Tsingis||29||Aris|
|12 Andreas Kharitou||26||Omonia|
|13 Spyros Kastanas||on 65′||25||Ethnikos Akhnas|
|14 Kostas Petsas||on 78′||27||Omonia|
|15 Evagoras Khristofi||27||Omonia|
|16 Panikos Khatziloizou||29||Aris|
It is unclear to us what time the game actually kicked off, though it must have been some time in the afternoon rather than the evening, as Belgrade had not yet gone completely dark. In fact, dusk was still settling some 30 minutes into proceedings. However, judging by the number of umbrellas on display, it was pouring down from above, and so the conditions by kick-off time would’ve been slick. Whom would this suit the better?
It would be the visitors getting the game under way, kicking from right to left as the cameras were operating, and possibly facing the wind head on. Both corner flags and flags on the halfway line indicated that the wind was quite severe, although possibly not constant. In other words, conditions were hardly ideal, and this could’ve contributed to spectators electing to stay at home rather than turning out for the football.
Two players who had not featured in either of Cyprus’ two previous qualifiers, Mario Tsingis and Giannakis Ioannou, would perform the kick-off.
Yugoslavia waste little time
Yugoslavia do not mess about even in the early stages: They immediately set their sights on supremacy. It goes without saying that they have individuals of much higher calibre than their opponents, who are pinned back deep inside their own half almost from the first kick. Not only do the Yugoslavs’ technically more adapt players make sure Cyprus straight away realize they’re in for a tough shift, but even collectively they’re switched on. Once during the initial phase Cyprus are across the halfway line whilst in possession, and Yugoslavia make sure to treat them seriously, with players covering for one another and working hard until they’ve won possession back. With so many players committed defensively, it was clear right away that Cyprus would have a long way to come in order to provide any levels of threat in front of Tomislav Ivković, the 28 year old Austria based goalkeeper for the hosts who was making his 14th international appearance.
Cyprus showed in their shock 1-1 draw at home to France in their first qualifier that they had some combative performers, and they are certainly fortunate to see big central defender Giorgos Khristodoulou escape a yellow card inside the fourth minute for cynically hacking Yugoslavia captain Zlatko Vujović down from behind some 27-28 yards out. Khristodoulou had been man-marking in their two qualifiers hitherto, and it would appear that he was the man who had been assigned to look after Vujović. He was a tough, uncompromising defender, though obviously he had it in him to be exposed once the pace of the game increased. Yugoslavia for sure had done their home work, and so knew what was needed of them in order to tear this visiting defence apart.
From the free-kick caused by Khristodoulou’s mean tackle on Vujović, young and exciting forward Dejan Savićević has the ball touched to him by veteran midfielder Safet Sušić. From that distance, the 22 year old Red Star Belgrade prospect is not afraid to have a go with his left foot, and it takes a flying tip over his crossbar by veteran goalkeeper Giorgos Pantziaras’ right fist to divert the ball away, although it might just have crept over anyway. From the resulting left wing corner, Yugoslavia come close to scoring again when Vujović connects with a header from close range, only to see the alert Pantziaras leap to his right to tip the ball around the post. Super save! The 36 year old stopper still has his reaction levels intact.
Yugoslavia move the ball around with purpose, and their players are flexible and dynamic; they have a great wish to stretch the Cypriot defence. In particular Savićević seems bent on giving a fine account of himself, and it could be that the early effort had given him some confidence. He shifted out into wide positions and he attempted slightly difficult passes. He also showed some glimpses of his pace, which made it difficult for his designated marker, Andreas Stavrou, to keep up. It was in fact a joy to behold these early passages of play in which Yugoslavia were truly switched on and wanting to cause their opponents damage. Cyprus need to be alert to shut the hosts out thus far, though it only appears to be a matter of time before Yugoslavia move in front.
While Khristodoulou had been lucky to avoid an early booking, there was no such reprieve for lone striker Giannakis Ioannou when he hacked down home midfielder Mehmed Baždarević 22 yards out on ten minutes. It had been a late, clumsy challenge, although probably less cynical than the one which their central defender had committed six minutes earlier. You could perhaps claim it was a typical forward’s challenge. Still, the yellow card was rightly displayed.
The inevitable would occur just shy of twelve minutes: Yugoslavia moved in front. Sušić had struck with his left foot from the free-kick caused by Ioannou’s challenge on Baždarević, though Yugoslavia would recycle the ball once it had been cleared into their half, and the lively Savićević would thread the ball to his advanced right when he was surrounded by three Cypriots 25 yards out. Sušić, who had also been a big early influence, played it back to the Red Star ace, and from just outside the penalty area the forward struck it low into the right hand corner of the goal. Pantziaras got down too late to prevent the ball from entering the back of the net for a 1-0 home lead. It was well deserved, as Yugoslavia had laid early siege on their opponents’ half. No one deserved the goal more than Savićević. He had been on fire so far.
Hosts do not slow down after scoring
The opening quarter of an hour is all Yugoslavia. Not that this game picture was unexpected in any way, but the home side are really all over their opponents, offering the Cypriots little respite. Yugoslavia are very alert to the fact that they need to keep the pace up; any lingering will provide Cyprus with the opportunity to clear their lines. The visitors do not hesitate in booting the ball away: Anywhere will do. They’re a goal down, and it is very evident that the hosts will just continue to come in relentless waves towards Pantziaras’ goal. Yugoslavia’s grip on the proceedings is merciless.
Cyprus are very fortunate yet again to escape booking when Stavrou, the player usually marking Savićević, has had to track Vujović, who’s come across towards the central right areas. In the centre of the pitch, Sušić is so far totally bossing the game, and he pins the ball forward for his captain to run on to. However, Stavrou, the 30 year old APOEL defender making his fifth appearance for his country, has got a strong grip low of Vujović’ shirt, and he’s refusing to let go. This inevitably brings the Cannes striker to the ground, and in an attempt to get off the referee’s hook, Stavrou stays on the ground as if he were injured. Mr Kolev buys into it, and the man-marker avoids yellow. From the resulting free-kick, Cyprus eventually clear away to a right wing Yugoslavia corner after Pantziaras has failed to gather Savićević’ low left-footed drive. Khristodoulou had been alert and slid the rebound behind. The Red Star striker is a huge threat to the visitors in his home stadium.
A closer look…
France based Yugoslavia midfield man Baždarević has an effort with his left foot from just outside the penalty area which only cleared the bar by half a yard or so, although Pantziaras had it covered. This was on the 20 minute mark, and at this point it was very evident how the two managers had set their respective teams up. The hosts were in a 5-3-2 formation, something which perhaps was a bit surprising, given the fact that the opponents were hardly an attacking threat. Could Ivica Osim not have sacrificed a defender for a midfielder or even an extra attack player? The visitors, on the other hand, had changed their formation since their opening two fixtures: Since their 5-3-2 outline against both France and Norway in home ties, they were now playing in a deep 5-4-1 formation. This would contribute to the ball returning deep inside their half almost immediately after they’d cleared it in the forward direction, as it was a near impossible task for lone striker Ioannou to maintain possession in battle with the home defenders.
Yugoslavia had said Ivković between the sticks for the third time out of three in this qualification. He was a sound enough ‘keeper, who probably did not command his area that well, but who was a fine shot stopper. At 28, he had reached the age where a goalkeeper would start to peak, and he’d not done his chances any harm in either of Yugoslavia’s two earlier group fixtures, despite conceding three times already.
Ahead of him to the right was 25 year old Vardar Skopje player Vujadin Stanojković, who seemed to be Osim’s right-back favourite around this time. The attacking full-back would more often than not wish to contribute inside the opposition’s half, especially on an occasion like this with the opponent played so deep, and he possessed both decent pace and a fine right foot for crossing. He would occasionally combine with the right-sided midfielder, on this particular occasion Dragan Stojković, and attempt to create superiority in numbers along the right. He’d been unfortunate when his missed interception had gifted France the opening goal in their previous tie, but this did not affect him the slightest in this performance.
In the centre, Yugoslavia had two players who were both more than capable of performing in the libero role. As it were, the task had gone to the more experienced of the two, Faruk Hadžibegić, on this occasion, back in his favoured number 5 shirt. The 31 year old Sochaux player, appearing for the 35th time in country colours, had got the nod ahead of Italy based Davor Jozić, although it could be said that with Cyprus deploying just one striker, even Jozić would appear to be a spare man, like he had been against the French. However, Hadžibegić initially swept, whilst Jozić would be tasked with bringing the ball across the halfway line, or indeed feed one of his midfielders with the ball. Yugoslavia were often playing directly to foot rather than into space, at least through the centre, and so both of their more central midfielders, Sušić and Baždarević, would come and be fed by Jozić.
The third central defender in this line-up was the tall and somewhat unorthodox Predrag Spasić. The Partizan Belgrade man, 23 years of age, was making his fourth country appearance, and he’d been instrumental in their win against France last time around with his equalizing goal for 1-1. Being of good size, Spasić was naturally a strong player whenever an aerial challenge happened, and on this occasion it was him who was the sole defensive player responsible for a particular opponent. As Cyprus’ only striker, Giannakis Ioannou, typically appeared through the centre or central right areas, Spasić was working more or less as a left-sided centre-half. He would predominantly see to that Ioannou had little space in which to manoeuvre, but it would also occur that Spasić saw fit to join in attack from a left-sided position. Indeed, he would even be adjudged offside on one occasion when Savićević had tried to feed him down the left. It seemed a rare occurence.
Whilst Stanojković was working along the right, it was a Partizan team mate of Spasić’, Dragoljub Brnović, who was in charge of Yugoslavia’s left hand side. However, with Cyprus so often totally committed to defending their own territory rather than posing any kind of attacking threat, it meant that Spasić was allowed to move forward, and when he did, it would be Brnović’ task to balance him out. This meant Brnović had less attacking freedom than Stanojković opposite, but the 25 year old making his ninth appearance in the Yugoslavia shirt was someone true to any command from above. He remained true to his more defensive tasks, even if this left him as perhaps the less visible player in the home ranks.
With Sušić and Baždarević in the centre, the former probably slightly more advanced originally than the latter, it seemed like the right hand side was where Osim wanted Stojković to try and dominate. And you knew what you would get from the 23 year old Red Star ace, matchwinner last time out: Sublime close control, exquisite passing and pinpoint set-pieces. This was his 19th cap, and though he had limited influence during the opening 20 minutes or so, he was someone that Cyprus would ignore at their peril. What an asset to have available when need be. In fact, he would assert less influence due to the high visibility of the energetic Sušić in the centre. The 33 year old PSG player had scored their second equalizer against the French, and he was appearing for the 37th time (only) in country colours, was capable of using both feet equally well, something which also went for Baždarević, and this fact added even a further dimension to the Yugoslav midfield. To leave a capacity like Stojković more or less unused…it described the luxury problem which lay before Osim.
The two forwards in the Yugoslav team were the lively Savićević and team captain (Zlatko) Vujović. It was often evident in the latter’s play that he would pull out towards the left hand side in attack, from where he would try to get in behind the opposition’s right-back or right-sided centre-half, although he did not possess much threat with his right foot, so it was not as if one of his assets was to cut inside and deliever a missile. He was also quite capable in the air, and he had been very unfortunate in that his early header had not hit the back of the net, which he owed to the outstanding save from Pantziaras. As for Savićević, who had come on to good effect against France, he played through the centre on this occasion, and he was a constant threat, never affected by having a man-marker in Stavrou. He was on fire; his left peg was always posing danger to the visitors. He would shoot from outside the area on plentiful occasions, and he would engage in little triangles with both Baždarević and, particularly, Sušić. He would also switch positions with Vujović, and he displayed wonderful dynamism in his play. It was hardly unlikely that he would add to his early goal tally.
Hosts so much on top
Yugoslavia are so much in command that they could’ve played the game hitherto without a goalkeeper. Ivković had not been tested, hardly even touched the ball, and it seemed unlikely that he would be, perhaps barring a lapse in concentration from the hosts. They were playing the game inside the Cypriot half of the pitch, and the visitors’ final third was as a result quite congested. This left practically no space in behind the away team’s defence, albeit there had been a couple of times that Yugoslavia had succeeded in working their way down the left and in behind the back of Cyprus’ right-back Antrellis.
Not that it had rewarded the hosts so far; they were more successful in attempting shots from distance. This had indeed been how Savićević had scored, and the Yugoslavia number 9 attempted another such effort towards the bottom right corner of Pantziaras’ goal. On that 23rd minute occasion the forward failed to get enough power behind his effort, and the 36 year old custodian managed to get down in time and save, rather comfortably too as it were. Had Savićević spotted a weakness in Pantziaras’ play though? Was the goalkeeper somewhat slow in getting down to his left? If he were a little bit behind in this department, there was little wrong with his reflexes, which he showed once again when Vujović connected well from Savićević’ left wing cross after the forward had recouped the ball from Antrellis on 25 minutes. The captain’s header was spectacularly kept out by the ‘keeper, although the ball had come much closer to him on this occasion than from Vujović’ earlier effort.
Cyprus offered preciously little
As for the visitors, it was clear that the gap in quality between them and the hosts was so big that they could do little other than sit deep and hope that Yugoslavia lost their appetite. So far, there were few signs of this. Cyprus did not have players capable of holding on to the ball in tight situations. If anything, the soggy pitch appeared to trouble them more than it bothered the hosts. Perhaps was their captain Yiangoudakis relatively strong in possession, but he was desperately alone. The only way they could work the ball across the halfway line was in playing it long from the back, although they failed to do so with any precision, and this just meant another wave of pressure heaped upon their overworked defence.
Making his third appearance of the ongoing qualification was 36 year old Pantziaras, who so far was giving a fine account of himself. This was his 21st international, the third highest among their starting eleven. Pantziaras was one of five starters from Apollon, one of the country’s two leading clubs, though by the end of the domestic season both the goalkeeper and his fellow international Limassol comrades would finish second behind great rivals Omonia of Nicosia.
The Cypriots had lined their defence up according to man-marking principles, and this would mean a spare man in the centre. This task had gone to Andreas Papakostas of Aris, another Limassol club. Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to track down Papakostas’ age, but he does appear in a 1975 team photo for the very same club, so 13 years later he should’ve been pushing 33-35 years. Papakostas had not featured so far in the current qualification, although he had made his international bow just over ten years earlier during a 2-2 home friendly against Saudi Arabia. Still, this was just Papakostas’ tenth cap, and he succeeded Kostas Miamiliotis as libero. He would perform sweeping duties behind his two man-marking central defensive colleagues.
The two centre-halves marking were 30 year old Andreas Stavrou and 24 year old Giorgos Khristodoulou. The latter appeared in shirt number 9, but he was nevertheless playing in defence. He had, like Stavrou, featured in both qualifiers so far, though neither were equipped with massive international experience, as this was just both’s fifth appearance for Cyprus. Khristodoulou was a big, physical player, and it would be his job to see to Yugoslavia captain Vujović. With the latter so often operating towards the left in attack, Khristodoulou would typically be seen as the right-sided among their centre-halves in this fixture. Stavrou would try his best to keep track of Savićević, a task which so far had been well beyond him. The Yugoslavia striker’s excellent movement saw him head and shoulders before Stavrou in any “challenge”.
Making his first qualification appearance ahead of Italia ’90 was right-back Antonis Antrellis, one of the five Apollon players in their starting eleven. He was wearing gloves and long underwear (just like Papakostas, too), something which highlighted an impression of him not feeling so comfortable in the circumstances. This reflected in his play, as he had been caught out of possession on a couple of occasions. He was relatively powerfully built, and so he appeared to be something of a handful in challenges. However, he’d not been able to make use of his muscles as play had mainly surpassed him.
Opposite of Antrellis was Kharalambos ‘Pambos’ Pittas, yet another player appearing for a third successive qualifier. He had indeed scored their late leveller against the French through that well-struck penalty, and he had also seemed fairly adapt defensively with some sound positioning. He would often be up against Stanojković and Stojković here in Belgrade, and so would need assistance in order not to be numerically inferior along his side defensively. He had decent tackling abilities and also possessed a fine left foot. Pittas, 22, was already making his eleventh appearance at this level, certainly not bad for a Cypriot player in the late 80s. A star in the making?
As opposed to a three man strong midfield force in their two previous qualifiers, Cyprus had manned their midfield with four players on this occasion. Priorly, they’d been operating with two defensive midfielders and one more roaming (Yiangoudakis), though here in the Marakana they had deployed just two men in the engine room. They were the robust Floros Nikolaou and skipper Giannakis Yiangoudakis. The latter was easily the most meritted international among their squad: Tonight was his 40th cap. Yiangoudakis had been working in quite an attacking midfield position against the French, often seeking towards the left, though here he was central left. Nikolaou was central right. 29 year old Yiangoudakis was quite confident in his play despite a relatively slender figure, and he would often try to find his compatriots with his fine left foot. However, he was desperately alone as a creative force, as Nikolaou next to him was merely a combative player. The latter, of Nea Salamina, was making his 17th appearance for his country.
In the wide positions the visitors had Mario Tsingis to the right and Pavlos Savva along the left. The latter had indeed been their right hand side outlet in that 5-3-2 formation which they’d utilised both against the French and the Norwegians, but Tsingis’ inclusion meant that Savva had switched sides. He was a limited player in possession, attempting to aid left-back Pittas in keeping tabs on the Yugoslavia right hand side fellowship of Stanojković and Stojković, but play had typically passed him by. The surface seemed to do him few favours. As for Tsingis, he was less meaty, though he appeared to have decent pace in him, and so he could potentially cause some threat to the hosts along the Cypriots’ right hand side. He would also be seen pushing towards central areas if they should make it across the halfway line collectively (not often!), probably in order to try and support the lone striker. 29 year old Tsingis had not featured earlier in the current qualification, but he was nevertheless their second most capped player with 24 internationals to his name. His claim to fame had obviously been scoring his country’s goal during a 3-1 away defeat against Italy in qualification for the 1984 European Championships, his sole goal at this level.
Up top was Giannakis Ioannou, the 29 year old Apollon player. He had made his bow at this level in the recent 1-1 away friendly against Malta, though this was a completely different ball game. He would fail to keep the ball up and wait for his midfielders to come far enough up the pitch to provide him with assistance, though it was hardly Ioannou’s fault, as balls in the forward direction generally failed to convince with their precision. Ioannou should certainly not be confused with Giannos Ioannou, who had come on as a substitute agains the French.
Yugoslavia increase their lead
Cyprus do their best to take as long time over any set-piece as possible; they need to kill time. Some relatively uneventful passages of play precede Yugoslavia’s second goal. In fact, Cyprus had been given a free-kick well inside the home side’s half due to a foul from Stanojković on Ioannou, though they fail to take advantage as Yiangoudakis’ lift into the area eluded any Cypriot player and is headed away by Spasić.
Once normal order has been resumed, with Yugoslavia in possession inside the visitors’ half, Savva needs to turn to illegal measures in order to halt Stanojković outside the penalty area to the right as the hosts were looking. Cyprus initially clear the lifted ball into the area from Stojković through Nikolaou, but the ball’s only headed back out into dangerous territory, and once again Savićević hit a shot low towards the bottom right of Pantziaras’ goal, feeding on the ball like a predator. In fact, the 2-0 goal is a replica of the forward’s first, and by now it seems to be no coincidence for Savićević to direct his effort towards that very spot. Pantziaras had again failed to get down and keep the ball out.
In the wake of the second goal
Yugoslavia had built a handsome two goal cushion with just 32 minutes on the clock, but it was not like a second goal had lulled them to sleep. Instead, they went relentlessly back on attack, so the Cypriots would likely have to look to the half-time break in order to get their breathing space. It was quite impressive how the hosts had maintained their initial pace for most of the half so far, and clearly Yugoslavia had stressed beforehand how important it was to them to get a big win margin in order to remain in charge of the group standings.
Despite the home side’s constant possession and appearance inside the Cypriot half, they fail to conjure up further opportunities in the minutes after their second goal. It is difficult to say exactly why, but the deep and numerous nature of the Cypriot defending is of course a contributing factor. So too is the pitch, which by now is beginning to cut, especially in central areas, and in particular well inside the visitors’ half. One should also take into account the wind, which evidently kept letting its presence felt.
Rather than adding to the pressure on Cyprus goalkeeper Pantziaras, there’s almost a shock goal back for the visitors when captain Yiangoudakis makes it into the area after a fine run from the left and in behind Brnović’ back. In fact, the latter home player appeared to have come into more central areas from his initial role out wide to the left, as Spasić was by now the Yugoslav patrolling the left hand flank. However, on this particular occasion less than seven minutes before the half-time break, Brnović had tracked back but failed to identify Yiangoudakis’ run in behind his back, and left-back Pittas had spotted his captain’s dart into the area and knocked the ball into space for him to run on to. The Cyprus number 6, though, came quite wide, and could not get much power behind his left foot effort, which he hit low first time after Pittas’ pass. Eventually, Ivković got down well to save low to his left. It is possible that the ball could’ve crept in at the far post, and Cyprus had indeed done well to arrive at this opportunity, keeping the ball amongst their players far longer than they had managed previously.
A further couple of bookings
Towards the end of the first half, and after Yugoslavia midfield man Sušić had had a mazy run which had ended with him shooting well wide to the left of goal and out of balance, there’s a couple of further bookings for the visitors. First out is their ‘keeper, who is shown the yellow for what is most likely time wasting. The cameras do not follow him immediately prior to referee Kolev displaying the yellow card in his direction, but as he’ll have retreated the ball in order to make a goal kick following Sušić’ goal attempt, this appears to have been the cause. Just over a minute later, right-back Antrellis will follow suit for what is in fact quite a vicious lunge at the heels of the advancing Spasić. The game has been played in fine spirits, so Antrellis’ cynical attempt at hacking down the Yugoslav defender from behind seemed unnecessary, especially as it happened just on the halfway line. Spasić would need medical attention, and though he would see the half out after eventually getting back up, he’d looked in some discomfort.
Cyprus would’ve been happy with the final stages of the first half and how they’d managed to disrupt the game with plenty of little niggles, prompting the referee into giving a number of free-kicks. Any rhythm was lost on the hosts, who no longer managed to maintain their earlier fine flow. With one major exception, which was when there was another attacking triangle between two home players, and this time it had been Savićević returning the favour for Sušić. The ageing midfield maestro came storming through the centre and into the area following Savićević’ neat return pass, where Cyprus libero Papakostas was way too late in his tackle. There was no disputing the penalty, and home libero Hadžibegić, who had hardly broke sweat so far, easily dispatched to the right in goal, with Pantziaras going in the other direction. It had been a fitting finale to a half dominated by the two players who won the hosts the spot-kick. The classy libero’s goal was his fifth for Yugoslavia; they had all been penalties.
Half-time and 3-0 Yugoslavia.
Before the start of the second half, there would have been some questions being bandied about among those present. There had been sequences during the first 45 minutes in which Predrag Spasić had played wide to the left rather than Dragoljub Brnović, who had appeared in more central areas. However, there had been nothing permanent in this switch, and in the minutes preceding the break Spasić had been back in the centre again, with Brnović back wide left. With the big defender’s knock towards the latter stages of the opening half there was even the question whether he’d return to the pitch for the start of the second half. And if not, who would take over? Surely, Osim could possibly alter his formation, bringing a more attacking kind of player on, though as the two teams appeared on to the pitch and ready to commence the game, it was clear that Spasić had been left behind in the dressing room with Red Star defender Goran Jurić on in his place. The very same player switch had indeed occured also during Yugoslavia’s previous qualifier, and ultimately to good effect. 25 year old Jurić was on for his third international appearance.
There were no changes among the visitors, as they lined up to see Vujović and Savićević kick the game off back into life.
Sluggish start to the half
Yugoslavia would need to find back to the slick passing game with which they’d put the Cypriots under pressure for the first 30 minutes or so during the first half, though initially in the second half they struggle to rediscover their touch. It should be mentioned that Osim had tried to change their approach slightly in directing Stojković to take greater part in proceedings during the stale, latter part of the first half, around the same time when Brnović and Spasić had more or less switched responsibilities. Blessed with such a touch and delightful vision, the 23 year old Red Star virtuoso had it in him to more or less single-handedly take the visitors apart. However, the movement which had been so good in the early stages of the game was no longer a prominent feature throughout the team.
Whilst Sušić had orchestrated most things good for Yugoslavia during the opening 45 minutes, he would become second in command to Stojković as the second half unfolded. The latter appeared in a deep, central role, and he would even seek towards the left hand side where he would attempt to combine with Brnović on a couple of occasions. Baždarević had held this deeper role from kick-off, and he’d done well, even if he’d not managed to stamp his authority on proceedings to the same extent as Sušić. Baždarević appeared to have been moved slightly higher up the pitch since the start of the second half. As for Hadžibegić, he would rarely break out of second gear, doing little other than sweeping behind his two fellow central defenders, where Jozić also appeared to be only partially switched on. It was as if their contribution was not in demand. Yugoslavia kept possession inside the Cypriot half, and for this they used their midfielders and wide players.
Jurić had replaced the injured Spasić, a move which by now was almost becoming familiar to the Yugoslavia fans, and he settled straight into the sole man-marking role: He would stick close to Cyprus’ lone striker Ioannou. Jurić quickly introduced himself to the 29 year old balding forward by scything him down from behind just a minute and a half after the restart, and Mr Kolev, who had displayed the yellow card on three occasion to Cypriots during the first half should’ve probably dished out another, this time for a home player. Jurić escaped, though.
Cyprus have made no changes inside their starting eleven for the second half, meaning that each player continued in their original roles. There did, however, seem to be a stronger focus on disrupting the game, as they would take every single opportunity to try and delay proceedings. They were woefully inept in comparison with such an opponent, and obviously limiting the damage was by now their main priority. Their players would make the most of every opportunity to go down after a challenge, and really, they gained no new fans on this display. Not that it was ever their intention.
Two further cautions in quick succession
Goalkeeper Pantziaras, who himself had gone to ground following a small altercation with Savićević early in the half, had excelled during the first period, but he would commit an error rarely seen at this level when he picked up a back pass from captain Yiangoudakis. This was obviously still very much allowed, but he put the ball to the ground in order to kill some more time, moving a little back and forth inside his area, and then picked the ball up a second time. The inevitable outcome was an indirect free-kick for the hosts inside the Cypriot penalty area. However, this gave the visiting players just the fuel they needed to flock around the referee and the home players, as they tried their best to intimidate Mr Kolev. Not that he was ever going to change his mind. Khristodoulou and Nikolaou appeared to be the most active among them, though when wide left man Savva attempted to kick the ball from out of the referee’s hands when Kolev had just put the ball to the ground, he earned himself a fourth booking for the away side. Sušić poked the ball for Stojković to shoot, but Khristodoulou, who was about two yards away by that time, got a block in to ensure that the ball safely ended up back with Pantziaras.
On the hour, there was yet another deserved Cyprus booking, and the frequently involved Nikolaou got his reward for demonstratively kicking the ball away after Sušić had won a free-kick in a left wing position. Surely, at this rate it was only a matter of time before one of the visiting players got sent off.
Cyprus make a substitution
Without a whole lot more football being played, Cyprus make their first change on 65 minutes. Central defender Khristodoulou had hurt himself in trying to block a Vujović cross; he’d immediately gone to ground clutching his right ankle. The referee must have thought it another attempt at play-acting, and so did not feel the need to have Khristodoulou attended to. Play continued with the man-marker down on the ground to the right outside his area, almost by the byeline, though with Khristodoulou still on the ground a minute and a half or so later, play was eventually halted so that the big man could receive some treatment. Cyprus felt the need to bring Sypros Kastanas on shortly after, as Khristodoulou was apparently so hurt from the block that he was unable to continue.
Kastanas was a 25 year old defender with three previous internationals to his name, and it would turn out that he directly replaced the man he had come on to the pitch for. This would see him engage directly in battle with Yugoslavia captain Vujović, while Savićević, who had been much more quiet since the start of the second half, was still attended to by Stavrou.
With the game reaching the halfway point in the second half, not a whole lot of football had been played since the beginning of the period. It had been a dull stop-start affair, and even if Yugoslavia had wanted to add to their tally, they had clearly been influenced by the visitors’ desire to slow the game down. The home players, who had moved freely and played some exciting stuff for 30-35 minutes, seemed no longer to be in the right frame of mind, and they had yet to truly put Pantziaras to the test in the final half. In the first half, several of the home players had engaged in little triangles, and the pace at which they’d gone about the game had at times torn the Cypriots apart. Yugoslavia had not managed to recreate this, and the two big first half profiles, Sušić and Savićević, had both been reduced to second half passengers.
Finally, Yugoslavia manage to speed up passing, and they are immediately rewarded. Stanojković is fed down the right hand side halfway inside the visitors’ half, and he opts to swing a deep cross towards the centre which ultimately finds its way to the back of the area where Vujović is lurking. He plays in Stojković, who is right on the edge of the area in a central position, and for once a few yards away from any opponent. The Yugoslavia number 7 can calmly accept the pass and steady himself for a shot, but alas, it would take a slight deflection off Papakostas on its path towards goal and end up half a yard over with Pantziaras well beaten. Two successive Sušić right wing corners are unfruitful.
It does look as if fatigue is beginning to creep into some of the Cypriot players, because they are no longer as dutiful in their marking, often allowing the home players an extra yard or two. It had showed when Stojković had had his opportunity, and shortly after Sušić had been free along the left to pick a cross in the direction of the aerially strong Vujović. Right-back Antrellis had managed to arrive ahead of the home skipper and head it out for a left wing corner, and with a further minute gone on the clock, Savićević has engaged himself in play slightly deeper and closed in on the Cypriot penalty area with the ball at his feet. He’d proved successful in his first half shooting, but on this occasion he was closed down just as he got his effort away, and the ball trickled into the hands of Pantziaras. On 78 minutes, Yugoslavia shift the ball around at pace in the final third of the pitch, and distributing the ball quickly towards the right hand side of the penalty area, they set Stojković up for yet another shot. His low, angled drive is kept out by a fine one-handed stop by Pantziaras, who proved quicker in getting down to his right rather than to his left on the two first half occasions which had resulted in goals.
Second Cypriot substitution
Cyprus had just prior to this last home opportunity brought on their second and final substitute: Lone striker Ioannou had come off to be replaced by midfielder Konstantinos “Kostas” Petsas, a 27 year old from Omonia Nicosia, who certainly against the French had shown some qualities of combative nature in the centre of the pitch. Oddly, it did look as if Cyprus would see the game out with no player up top, so after Petsas arrived they would be playing in a formation something akin to 5-5-0.
Yugoslavia add to their winning margin
A fourth Yugoslav goal had been coming, and it happened on 82 minutes after a poor clearance from libero Papakostas, who did not get much distance on his kick. It was picked up by Vujović 25 yards out, and he rode a challenge from Kastanas before feeding it short to Savićević. The 22 year old forward closed in on goal, and with Stavrou making less than even a half-hearted challenge, the path was clear for Savićević to continue unopposed into the area and fire low with his right foot this time, sending the ball into the back of the net under goalkeeper Pantziaras. Obviously, it was Savićević’ first hat-trick in international football, as he took his Yugoslavia goal tally up to four from seven matches.
Through to full time
Our tape cuts on 92,14, whilst Yugoslavia are still in possession inside the opposition’s half, though there can’t possibly have been much more happening after that. Since the fourth goal, Yugoslavia had arrived at a couple of half chances, with both Stojković and Hadžibegić, the latter with a very rare presence inside Cyprus’ area, having tame headers comfortably dealt with by Pantziaras.
There had been time for some more antics from the Cypriots, though, when Hadžibegić had, admittedly, tackled Savva quite strongly from behind. However, it is very doubtful whether the wide midfielder actually was in so much pain that he needed to remain on the ground for well over a minute. Cyprus were clearly content with the 4-0 scoreline, and they had shown absolutely no attacking ambition after the break. Savva had in fact been one of very few Cypriot bodies inside the Yugoslav penalty area during the final 45 minutes, when he’d cut across from his left hand side to try and assist on the two occasions which Cyprus had come close to Ivković. The home ‘keeper had no saves to make after the break.
Yugoslavia had shown some inspirational play in the first half, when they had managed to move the ball quickly among themselves, and been able to stretch the Cypriot defence. In midfield, the ageing maestro that’s Safet Sušić had shone, whilst young forward Dejan Savićević was more than just a handful to his marker Andreas Stavrou. The Red Star Belgrade man had struck twice in similar fashion, whilst Sušić had won his team a late first half penalty which Faruk Hadžibegić converted for a comfortable 3-0 half-time scoreline. After the break, the visitors were bent on disrupting the hosts’ rhythm, and they managed it well until they tired around 75 minutes, eventually allowing for Savićević to complete his first ever international hat-trick. Five bookings and negative tactics made sure Cyprus left with little pride.
1 Ivković 6.8
showed that his concentration was intact in saving first half from Yiangoudakis. Second half just came to claim a Cyprus left wing corner. Apart from that, needed to attend to a few back passes
2 Stanojković 7.2
a fine engine down the right hand side, where he combined well with Stojković. Fine right foot for crosses, though a crowded area saw to that he rarely found a team mate
3 Spasić 7.0
could afford to be surprisingly attacking, as he would at times swap positions with Brnović. Few problems defensively against Ioannou, but had to come off at half-time after having been lunged into by Antrellis late in the first half
(13 Jurić 7.1
showed none of his predecessor’s attacking credentials, as his sole focus lay on preventing Ioannou from getting on the ball. This he got right, though he ought to have been booked for a cynical tackle on the Cypriot striker early doors)
4 Brnović 7.0
seemed to enjoy the frequent swaps in positions with Spasić, and was typically confident in possession. Nothing to do inside his own half, and not so often used down the left
5 Hadžibegić 7.0
tucked away his penalty with aplomb, but other than that he remained pinned inside his own half, leaving creativity to others. Was hardly in demand all game
6 Jozić 7.2
came in direct confrontation with Ioannou on a couple of first half occasions, but his main task was to transport the ball from deep inside their own territory to one of the midfielders around the halfway line. Drew a top class save from Pantziaras early on after a fine header
7 Stojković 7.6
opened as if he was less motivated, but he grew in inspiration as the game wore on, and after the break he even came close to scoring from the edge of the area, and also tested Pantziaras with an angled drive. His close control was as raffined as always
8 Sušić 7.8
a high tempo and all action first half in which he totally dictated play. Assisted for 1-0, won the penalty for 3-0, and combined excellently with Savićević
9 Savićević 8.4
a first half in which he bossed the park along with Sušić. Less involved after the break, but tested goal on a number of occasions throughout, and got his hat-trick with another low finish late on. Energy, drive and skill in a top class package
10 Baždarević 7.3
generally let the somewhat more advanced Sušić dominate in the first half, when he had a couple of fairly disappointing shots. Always strong on the ball and in combinations, and altogether gave a fine performance
11 Zl. Vujović 7.2
far less visible than his strike partner, but moved wisely, showed on a couple of occasions his ability in the air, and the captain’s clearly a motivating factor among such a talented squad
1 Pantziaras 6.9
easily his team’s best performer. Had two stunning reaction saves, though it should be added that he was suspiciously slow in getting down to his left for both of Savićević’ first half goals
2 Antrellis 6.2
unremarkable impression at right-back, as he offered nothing going forward, and Yugoslavia also had less wish to attack directly down his flank
3 Pittas 6.5
good positioning, not an easy job often being outnumbered, but is sound in direct confrontation with Stojković despite suffering from little aid
4 Papakostas 6.3
swept alright, but responsible for the penalty, and also gave away possession for the fourth goal
5 Stavrou 5.8
given a true run-around by Savićević in the first half, and never really recovered, even if his opponent was less visible after the break. Fairly strong in the air, but alas, that was not where Yugoslavia wanted to play
6 Yiangoudakis 6.5
never gave up despite the unforgiving circumstances, and he kept the ball well in some tight situations. Also the man behind their sole effort on goal when he tested Ivković’ concentration late in the first half
7 Savva 6.3
quite a battling player, but not enough involved as a wide player
8 Nikolaou 6.3
another midfield battler with not a whole lot of skill
9 Khristodoulou 6.4
overall did not do too badly against Vujović, but suffered from the amount of collective pressure to which his team was constantly exposed. Off with what looked like a light ligament injury
(13 Kastanas 6.2
did ok as pace was not great after he came on bar for a few minutes)
10 Ioannou 5.8
a near impossible task on his own up front, and well marshalled by the Yugoslav defence. Never had a sniff inside the area, and must have been relieved to be substituted. Not his fault alone that he could make next to no impression, though
(14 Petsas –
replaced the lone striker, though came on as a fifth midfielder, and had a couple of decent touches, even if he just added more physicality in an attempt at seeing the game out with “just” a three goal deficit)
11 Tsingis 5.6
woeful even by Cypriot standards, and he never got his passes right. Offered Antrellis little security defensively, and as an attacking force he was so easily brushed off the ball