Gritty Cyprus hold Germany to qualifying draw

@tvbp1985 (999)
November 15, 2006 7:00pm CST
Germany's European Championship qualifying campaign stalled on Wednesday as Joachim Loew's injury-hit side were held to a 1-1 draw by Cyprus. Michael Ballack, celebrating his 75th international appearance, put the visitors ahead in the 15th minute of the Group D match but there were few other clear chances for a Germany team missing a number of players. Cyprus equalised just before halftime with a volley from Yiannakis Okkas, who squeezed his long-range shot past stand-in keeper Timo Hildebrand, who looked badly at fault. After four games Germany have 10 points and are level on points with fellow group heavyweights Czech Republic. Cyprus are fourth with four points behind Slovakia on six. The Cypriots, who have already beaten Ireland 5-2 in this campaign, started brightly with Efstathios Aloneftis racing down the left and sending in a cross that Manuel Friedrich did well to cut out in the first minute. Germany were missing regulars like goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, midfielder Tim Borowski and striker Lukas Podolski yet they were quickly able to take control and went ahead. Torsten Frings and Bastian Schweinsteiger looked to have made a mess of a short free kick but Ballack ran on to the misplaced pass, rounded one player and sent in a shot just inside the keeper's right-hand post. TOO LITTLE It was a 35th Germany goal for Ballack and looked likely to set the team on the way to a fourth win out of four in Group D, and a sixth in six games under Loew, including friendlies. Instead, Germany let their concentration wander and paid the price when Aloneftis made ground on the left and crossed for Okkas to blast in first time from the edge of the area two minutes before the break. "We weren't precise enough and we weren't fully concentrated," said Loew, who stepped up to replace Juergen Klinsmann after Germany's run to third place at the World Cup. "But we can live with this result." The start of the second half was held up when a spectator ran on to the field and stuffed the ball under his T-shirt. When it did begin, Cyprus attacked once again with conviction and were almost rewarded in the 50th minute. Clemens Fritz played a weak back pass to Hildebrand and his hurried clearance struck Constantinos Charalambides. The attacker looked likely to have a simple chance to put Cyprus ahead as he raced for the loose ball but Fritz was quick to get back and clear. Germany gradually improved with Ballack and substitute striker Mike Hanke both going close before Schweinsteiger was just wide with a point-blank strike a minute from time. Cyprus coach Angelos Anastasiades praised his side's resilience. "I am very pleased with my players - they made a great effort and showed the right spirit and discipline," he told reporters. "We knew that the Germans had problems in defence and we tried to take advantage of that. We caused them problems."
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