Late goals keep Greece, Bosnia in lead
ATHENS, Greece (AP)
Dimitris Salpingidis found the net in the second half as Greece beat Latvia 1-0 to retain a share of the lead in World Cup qualifying Group G, level with Bosnia which emerged as the favorite after coming from behind with a pair of late goals to win 2-1 in Slovakia.
The Greeks hammered away at Latvia's slow defense, and eventually beat goalkeeper Aleksandrs Kolinko in the 58th. Georgios Samaras picked out Salpingidis who got the better of three defenders and calmly spun the ball into the left corner.
Both teams ended the game with 10 men. Latvia's Ritvars Rugins was sent off after scuffling with Costas Katsouranis in the 86th minute, while Katsouranis was shown his second yellow card from Icelandic referee Kristinn Jakobsson in injury time after his heavy handed intervention to stop the Latvians on the break.
In the other group match Tuesday, Lithuania won 2-0 at home against Liechtenstein on first-half goals from Deivydas Matulevicius and Tadas Kijanskas.
Greece and Bosnia both have 19 points from eight matches, but the Bosnians kept their goal advantage after Ermin Bicakcic leveled in the 70th minute at Zilina, and Izet Hajrovic came off the bench to find the winner eight minutes later, delivering a powerful shot from 25 meters.
Slovakia inflicted the first qualifying defeat for Bosnia last week and raised hopes in Athens on Tuesday after taking the lead with Marek Hamsik in the 42nd minute as the hosts dominated the half. But Bosnia pushed back after the break for the late win.
''It was a match full of chances ... a high quality duel. We beat an excellent opponent,'' Bosnia coach Safet Susic said.
The Bosnians now have the easier task to reach their first World Cup in Brazil next year, with Liechtenstein and Lithuania as opponents in the last two matches.
''Obviously there's less light at the end of the tunnel for us now. But we'll keep chasing it,'' Greece coach Fernando Santos said.
''We had a really strong start tonight and the final score doesn't show that. Finishing is an issue. We need to work on our coordination in the little time that we have left.''
Celtic striker Georgios Samaras said Greece could look forward to a place in the play offs.
''We have to think about ourselves and not Bosnia. We have two qualifying games to play and two games to win,'' he said. ''We are creating chances and that's what's important.''
Associated Press reporter Karel Janicek in Prague contributed to this report.