Cyprus get their first win of 2024, winning a 4-1 friendly away to San Marino at the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle in Serravalle, San Marino. Usually for Cyprus, any win is something to be celebrated, especially a 4-1 win, but against San Marino, ranked 210th and last in the entire world, skeptics aren’t going to be convinced by this performance, especially on the back of a dismal showing in Moldova on Saturday. Cyprus earned the expected result, but it took the entire first half to score, and lowly San Marino had plenty of chances to score, and managed to do so once. Many in Cyprus will have serious reservations about starting another UEFA Nations League campaign this fall with Timur Ketsbaia leading the team.

Cyprus came out swinging, as the Captain Kostakis Artymatas had a go, but it was blocked in front by Alessandro D’Addario. Grigoris Kastanos was the first to get a shot on target, but Edoardo Colombo turned him away. Alessandro Tosi tested Joel Mall from distance, but Mall was able to knock it down. Ioannis Pittas fired one off from outside the box, but Colombo kicked it aside, albeit awkwardly. Artymatas let fly from outside the box, and Colombo got to that one, too. Kastanos gave it another try, Colombo made the save and covered the rebound before Pittas could get there. San Marino were able to counter and get a rare chance, but Nicola Nanni fired wide. It looked like Cyprus would finally break through just before halftime, when Giorgos Malekkidis found himself wide open for a free header, but he skied it over the net. Then San Marino put a real scare into Cyprus, as Nanni forced a save from Mall.

On the very last play of the first half, Cyprus finally solved Colombo. Loizos Loizou delivered a corner, which made it through a maze of bodies and found Giannis Satsias, who hit it first time and found the top corner past Colombo, giving Cyprus a 1-0 lead to take into halftime.

After a tentative start to the second half, Kastanos hit the net twice in as many minutes. In the 53rd minute, Kastanos placed one that Colombo failed to respond to through traffic to make it 2-0 for Cyprus.

Not even a minute later, Kastanos with a more conventional strike, beat Colombo to extend the Cypriot advantage to 3-0.

Chambos Kyriakou forced Colombo to a nice save from a free kick. Tosi tried to get San Marino on the board, but Mall was able to tip it over the bar.

Mall’s first international clean sheet however, wasn’t to be. Simone Giocondi bested the Swiss-born keeper with a perfect strike, to give San Marino a rare goal.

Any hopes of a comeback were quickly squashed when Colombo turned the ball over to Andreas Katsantonis, who found Andronikos Kakoullis who was able to put the ball into the gaping net to preserve the 4-1 win for Cyprus.

SAN MARINO(Roberto Cevoli): 1. Edoardo Colombo(GK), 2. Alessandro D’Addario, 5. Michele Cevoli(’74 14. Giacomo Valentini), 6. Dante Rossi, 20. Alessandro Tosi, 17. Alessandro Golinucci(Captain), 21. Michael Battistini(’86 24. Matteo Valli Casadei), 10. Filippo Berardi(’28 19. Samuel Pancotti), 11. Andrea Contadini(’74 22. Marcello Mularoni), 18. Nicko Sensoni(’46 25. Simone Giacondi), 9. Nicola Nanni(’74 7. Matteo Vittaioli)

CYPRUS(Timur Ketsbaia): 22. Joel Mall(GK), 17. Nikolas Panayiotou, 6. Alex Gogic, 3. Hector Kyrpianou, 14. Giorgos Malekkidis(’68 8. Kostas Pileas), 15. Danilo Spoljaric(’46 25. Chambos Kyriakou), 18. Kostakis Artymatas(Captain), 20. Grigoris Kastanos(’63 12. Andreas Chrysostomou), 7. Giannis Satsias(’46 Andreas Panayiotou Filiotis), 10. Loizos Loizou(’46 11. Andronikos Kakoullis), 9. Ioannis Pittas(’62 23. Andreas Katsantonis)

By Andrew Mantzas