Two second half goals from Edin Dzeko handed Bosnia and Herzegovina a 2-0 win over Cyprus in the third match of World Cup qualifying on Monday night in Zenica.
Christakis Christoforou’s side weathered an early storm but the Roma striker, after missing several clear opportunities, bagged twice to inflict Cyprus’ third successive defeat of the campaign.
Cyprus set out with an attacking formation, as Christofi, Makris and Sotiriou featured in a front three, replacing Efrem, Charalambides and Mytides from the team that faced Greece last Friday.
Bosnia started on the front foot, evidently out to prove a point not only for that shock defeat to Cyprus two years ago but also to react to their 4-0 loss to Belgium a few days prior. The Cyprus team would have been well-informed of the threat Miralem Pjanic posed, and it was the Juventus man who had the first effort after just five minutes which went just wide of the post.
Surprisingly, it was Cyprus who had the best first chance of the game when Christofi played a nice one-two with Demetriou down the right hand side and broke clear of the Bosnia defence. However the forward’s attempted cross fizzed past Makris who was sliding in at the far post.
The pressure on Cyprus’ defence remained constant, as each clearance quickly came back the other way with the forwards unable to hold the ball up on the slippery terrain.
Despite a lengthy layoff, Christofi looked in the mood on a ground where he became a hero two years ago. A sweeping pass by Kastanos out to the right ended in the Omonia winger striking powerfully across goal which had to be superbly tipped over by Begovic.
Panayi has been hot and cold in the two previous qualifiers, with a fine display at Belgium followed by a terrible error in Greece. After making some decent stops in the first half, a hasty exit to claim Visca’s cross early in the second almost proved fatal as Dzeko leapt before the youngster but the Roma man diverted his header wide.
Dzeko then had another glorious chance for the opener as Djuric’s cross found him unmarked in the box but again he uncharacteristically failed to hit the target. Then came the other side of Panayi’s game as he stayed big to second guess Dzeko’s attempted dink with a fine stop, showing his fine potential.
Yet a striker of Dzeko’s quality rarely spurns too many opportunities and Cyprus’ luck eventually ran out through their own doing. Alexandrou’s attempted pass in his own penalty area was intercepted by Pjanic who then squared the ball to Dzeko to break the deadlock on 70 minutes.
It was so nearly 2-0 in the very next attack as Dzeko was released in the clear. The striker went to take on the goalkeeper but Panayi anticipated the movement well, springing to his left to claw the ball wide.
The win for Bosnia, however, was sealed through that man Dzeko, who jumped highest at the back post to head powerfully beyond Panayi who tried his best to keep it from going over the line.
Cyprus have not disgraced themselves in terms of performance levels in the current campaign but three defeats from the opening three games means any faint previous faint hopes of qualifying are all but over.