Cyprus held to goalless draw by youthful Serbia

CYPRUS and Serbia played out a goalless draw in the second game of the 14th International National Teams Tournament organised by the Cyprus Football Association  at the GSZ Stadium in Larnaca.

Following their 2-0 win over Armenia in Limassol on Tuesday, Serbia’s caretaker coach Radovan Ćurčić decided to field a youthful team as he handed full debuts to three players in Matija Nastasić, Filip Đuričić and Stefan Šćepović, while three others had played less than ten games for the national team.

The visitors started the match in an attacking fashion and Ajax’s Miralem Sulejmani had a goal scoring opportunity after seven minutes but he was denied by the debutant in Cyprus’ goal – Anagennisi Derynias keeper Christos Mastrou.

The same player had another chance to open the proceedings in the 31st minute when Milan Jovanović sent in a low cross from the left flank, but Sulejmani miskicked the ball high over the bar with only Mastrou at his mercy.

Cyprus had two goals disallowed for offside in the first half, while Nestoras Mitidis wasted a good opportunity to help Cyprus take the lead.

In the second half, Mastrou continued to make impressive interventions as both Sulejmani and Šćepović looked poised to score, while 18-year-old Fiorentina’s defender  Nastasić made a late goal-line clearance to keep Serbia on level terms at the other end.

“We played very well today and the final score was fair in my opinion,” said Cyprus coach Nikos Nioplias afterwards.

“We have improved in comparison to our last international friendly and I am glad that we continued to do well with many new players in our squad.

“Mastrou can be even better than he was today.

“What I liked is our attitude and behaviour on the pitch. So far in our games we used to make simple mistakes in the beginning, go behind and then try to recover.

“We must play at a high level from the beginning until the end and today we did that,” Nioplias added.

“What I want are games against teams with solid defenses, unlike Canada. This is why we will not play them as I do not see a point in doing that,” he concluded.