Cyprus missed a golden opportunity to rekindle their hopes of FIFA World Cup™ qualification as they let slip a two-goal lead to draw against Montenegro in a fiery European Zone 8 qualifying match in Larnaca. Michalis Konstantinou opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Chrysostomos Mihail doubled their lead from the spot on the stroke of half-time.
But a second-half Dejan Damjanovic brace gave the visitors a share of the spoils and it could have been worse for Cyprus had Mirko Vucinic not seen his penalty saved. Victory for Cyprus would have left them seven points behind Group 8 leaders Italy and six behind the Republic of Ireland with a game in hand.
As it stands they remain fourth in the group and their already faint hopes of making it to South Africa have all but disappeared. Winless Montenegro have a point less than Cyprus.
Cyprus started the stronger side and deservedly took the lead after 14 minutes when bustling AC Omonia striker Konstantinou headed Efstathios Aloneftis' corner past Vukasin Poleksic from close range. Montenegro struggled to defend against the Cypriot attackers and their problems increased when Radoslav Batak sent Konstantinou tumbling in the area and Mihail beat Poleksic from the spot to double the hosts' advantage.
Both sides replaced players during the first period, with Cyprus goalkeeper Antonis Giorgallidi being replaced by Michalis Morfis and Damjanovic coming on for the injured Nikola Drincic.
Konstantinou, Aloneftis and Konstantinos Makridis all missed good chances to increase Cyprus' lead after the break. Their wasteful finishing was punished in the 65th minute when Vucinic's long ball picked out the unmarked Damjanovic and the FC Seoul forward fired his effort under Morfis.
Damjanovic was then brought down in the area by Elias Charalambous ten minutes later, but Vucinic's penalty kick was well saved by Morfis. However, the APOEL FC goalkeeper's celebrations lasted only three minutes before the dangerous Damjanovic unleashed a 25-yard strike that somehow eluded everyone and ended up in the corner of the net.
Cyprus' frustration boiled over in the dying minutes as coach Angelos Anastasiadis was sent to the stands by Spanish referee Carlos Velasco Carballo.