REUTERS - Cyprus stunned Israel when defender Jason Demetriou's 85th minute strike secured a 2-1 victory in Group B on Saturday to leave them with a slim chance of qualifying for Euro 2016 via the playoffs by finishing third.
The Cypriot victory was achieved with dogged defending, coupled by a lack of any inspired play by their Israeli hosts. It was a first win for the islanders in Israel in 12 meetings between the Mediterranean neighbors over 55 years.
After a first half in which the Israelis had most of the possession but failed to make any clear chances, Cyprus broke the deadlock through a Dosa Junior header from a free kick in the 58th minute.
It silenced the already passive Israeli crowd of 25,300 at Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium, but they were awoken by Nir Biton's equalizer, a thunderbolt from 30 meters that crashed into the back of Antonios Giorialledes's net in the 76th.
But in their haste to find a winner and boost their own chances of finishing third in the group, the Israelis abandoned all defensive efforts and allowed Demetriou to blast home the winner from close range in the 80th.
Third spot is still up for grabs, with Bosnia, who beat Wales 2-0 in occupying that position with 14 points, Israel in fourth on 13 and Cyprus fifth with 12 and all three can still secure the spot in the final round of matches on Tuesday.
Belgium, who beat Andorra 4-1 and Wales, have automatically qualified for next year's finals in France.
Cyprus coach Charalampos Christodolou was delighted with their performance and the players wildly celebrated a famous victory as the final whistle sounded.
"It was an open game and both teams played to win. It could have gone either way but we are happy to be the ones who succeeded and now all three teams still have a chance to clinch third spot," Christodolou told a post-match news conference.
His downcast Israeli counterpart Eli Guttman declined to discuss his future but ominously said he would "make an announcement when there will be something to announce.
"This is one of the most disappointing moments in my career. When you have a chance like this and you don't take it, you don't deserve to even dream about finishing third...
"There was no implementation of any plan today and I take full responsibility... I have not been able to leave my mark on the team," Guttman said.
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