The appointment of Zoran Stratev failed to provide much of a lift as an uninspired Macedonian side suffered a 1:0 loss against Wales.
Zoran Stratev put his imprint on the team by announcing numerous changes in the starting 11, but it did not lead to improved play. Instead, the opening 10 minutes were just both teams exchanging possession with neither keeper under any duress.
The first shot on goal didn’t come until the 13th minute when a long range effort by Agim Ibraimi was easily saved by Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey. What followed was another stretch of back and forth possession with neither Macedonia nor Wales looking very threatening.
Mirko Ivanovski should have done better in the 21st minute when he had some space around the edge of the area, but he decided to try to chip the ball over the keeper which went well over the goal. On the other end, Pachovski was finally tested in the 22nd minute when he saved a curling shot by Neil Taylor. The next chance for Wales fell in the 26th minute when debutant Ezgjan Alioski make a goal line clearance in front of the left goal post following a corner kick for the home side.
Macedonia should have taken the lead in the 29th minute, but defender Nikolche Noveski missed a sitter. After a corner kick that was initially cleared by Wales, the ball reached a Macedonian player who immediately played the ball back into the box, reaching Noveski. Nikolche controlled the ball, rounded the keeper, but somehow skied his effort from close range for a big miss. Wales wanted offside on Noveski, but replays showed that he definitely beat the offside trap.
The game started to pick up at this point, and Wales striker Simon Church had an opportunity in the 30th minute when his close range header went wide of the goal after a cross from the left. Wales took initiative and continued to control play with Craig Bellamy testing Pachovski in the 37th minute with a powerful shot from distance. Tome punched the shot up in the air and was then able to catch the ball before any Wales player could pounce on the rebound. A minute player, Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey found Simon Church whose effort was blocked by Vanche Shikov out for a corner kick. The blocked shot almost resulted in an own goal as the ball went just inches over the goal.
Mirko Ivanovski showed good skill to create space in the 40th minute, but his shot went wide of the left goal post. In the 44th minute, the same player send a low cross in front of the Wales that almost led to an own goal of their own. A Wales defender got a piece of the low cross which then was blocked by the home keeper before going out for a corner.
Wales seemed the move motivated team to start the 2nd half and nearly scored the opening goal in the 50th minute when David Vaughan struck the cross bar. Vaughnan made a good run, helped by some poor defending, and his shot from a tight angle hit the crossbar before the ball rolled out. In the 62nd minute, Declan John sent a high cross that hit the top of the crossbar before Pachovski then hurried to clear the ball out for a corner.
The breakthrough finally came in the 67th minute when Ramsey, Bellamy and Church combined to open the scoring. Ramsey nicely found Bellamy whose low cross across goal was sent to the back of the net by Church. The goal seemed to deflate Macedonia and Bellamy nearly doubled the lead two minutes later, but he briefly hesitated on a counter attack which allowed his shot to be blocked.
Goran Pandev should have equalized in the 72nd minute but he shot straight at the Wales keeper from inside the area. Goran controlled Stefan Ristovski’s cross from the right, skillfully created space against his marker, but the finishing was poor as it was straight at the keeper. Five minutes later, Agim Ibraimi had a go with a header that was saved by Hennessey.
Wales, meanwhile, had a great chance to extend the lead in the 85th minute when Nikolche Noveski fouled Aaraon Ramsey inside the area, leading to a penalty. Ramsey took the spot kick but Pachovski came up big to save the shot and keep Macedonia in the game. However, the visitors could not capitalize on two final chances to salvage a point. First, Pandev attempted a shot that lacked much power and was easily saved by Hennessey in the 88th minute, while Predrag Rangjelovikj then shot wide from the edge of the area in the 90th minute for the final opportunity of the game.
With the loss, Macedonia fell to last place of Group A with 7 points from their nine games. Wales, on the other hand, moved up two spots to 4th place with 9 points. Macedonia plays its final game of the 2014 World Cup qualifications next Tuesday when they face Serbia on the road.
To view the match report, click here.