Portugal were denied an opening UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying victory by a late Andreas Avraam goal that gave Cyprus a memorable draw on the opening night of Group H action.
In a pulsating encounter the visitors led twice early on but went in at half-time level at 2-2 and Portugal looked to have quelled their resistance when Danny struck early in the second period.
Instead Yiannis Okkas equalised and even when Portugal’s Manuel Fernandes made it 4-3 on the hour, that only set the scene for Avraam’s dramatic late intervention.
Cyprus had scored just twice in eight previous meetings with Portugal but they doubled that tally inside the opening 11 minutes in Guimaraes as a thrilling game started at breakneck speed and barely relented.
Angelos Anastasiadis’s side combined last-ditch defending with incisive counterattacking, a strategy which paid off as early as the third minute as Efstathios Aloneftis raced on to Michalis Konstantinou’s intuitive reverse pass and calmly lifted the ball over the advancing Eduardo.
Hugo Almeida’s deft near-post header from a teasing Nani delivery restored parity, but Cyprus were undaunted and regained the lead through their captain, the alert Konstantinou reacting quickly to Raul Meireles’s miscontrol to push the ball around Eduardo and sweep into the empty net.
Meireles atoned for his slip in the 29th minute, his low left-foot effort eluding Antonis Georgallides to bring Portugal level again.
The home team began to gain the upper hand as the interval approached, Konstantinou clearing Almeida’s header off the line before Georgallides dived to tip Fábio Coentrão’s drive around the post.
Portugal continued to press after the break and took the lead for the first time in the 50th minute. Coentrão set up Danny to head in at the far post, providing a cushioned pass after the visitors had failed to clear Ricardo Quaresma’s corner. Now it was Portugal’s turn to be pegged back.
Substitute Okkas came on in the 56th minute and within a minute finished coolly after being released by Constantinos Charalambides’s perfect through ball.
Portugal swiftly regrouped and promptly moved in front again in spectacular fashion, Fernandes finding the top corner of the net with a thunderous effort from range.
That looked to have secured victory but, with the final whistle approaching, the industrious Avraam stooped to head in after Eduardo could only parry Siniša Dobrašinović’s shot to ensure a gripping encounter ended all square.
Portugal visit Norway on Tuesday, while Cyprus’s next fixture is at home to Norway on 8 October.
Courtesy of UEFA.com