Two late goals by Agim Ibraimi and Aleksandar Trajkovski propelled Macedonia to a 2:0 friendly victory over Bulgaria in Skopje.
The managers of both Macedonia and Bulgaria fielded their strongest lineups, from their current available players, as a final test before the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in September. Even though Macedonia has miniscule chances of finishing in the top 2 of their group, Chedomir Janevski is aiming for his side to finish 3rd in the group.
Macedonia opened in the usual 4-2-3-1 formation and had the first quality chance in the 3rd minute when Adis Jahovikj had a shot well saved by the Bulgarian keeper before going out for a corner. Ivan Trichkovski had created the opportunity with a good run from the left before reaching Jahovikj with a pass. After that near Jahovikj goal, the game had few dangerous moments until the 28th minute. That was when Bulgaria’s Aleksandar Tonev found himself in a great position in front of the Macedonian goal, but Pachovski came up big and made a good save to deny Tonev.
On the other end, Macedonia had a dangerous looking counter attack in the 31st minute, but Pandev proved a bit selfish and decided to take on two opposing defenders instead of finding Jahovikj. It was a 2-on-2 opportunity with both Bulgarian defenders going toward Pandev, leaving Adis unmarked.
The 1st half would go on to end scoreless, with each team having one quality chance. Midway through the half, the referee signaled for a water break to help the players deal with the humid weather. At that point, Janevski decided for Daniel Georgievski and Stefan Ristovski to switch position. Daniel went from right-back to left-back, while Stefan went the other way. Also, near the end of the opening 45 minutes, Pachovski and Bulgarian striker Ivelin Popov got into an altercation, leading both players to square off face to face. The referee gave each player a yellow card.
The 2nd half opened slow with both teams exchanging possession, but not creating much excitement for the fans in attendance. Macedonia then had a great chance in the 56th minute through Goran Pandev, but the attacker hesitated which allowed keeper Nikolay Mihaylov to pounce on the ball.
The 59th minute marked the debut of 19-year-old David Babunski when he was introduced to take the place of Pandev, a moment many Macedonian fans have been waiting for. Babunski is currently a member of Barcelona B and considered one of the future mainstays for the national team.
With the match seeming headed for a bore draw, the breakthrough eventually came in the 82nd minute when the referee ruled that Stefan Ristovski was fouled inside the area, leading to a penalty. Agim Ibraimi converted the spot kick to give Macedonia its fist goal in five games after going the previous four encounters without a goal.
The lead was extended in the 86th minute when two substitutes combined to hand Macedonia a 2:0 lead. Defender Daniel Mojsov played a good ball to Aleksandar Trajkovski who then used his pace to create additional space before slotting a shot past Mihaylov for the second and final goal.
Highlights of the game:
To view the match report, click here.