Goran Pandev’s goal in the 58th minute brought Macedonia a 0:1 win in the friendly match against Azerbaijan played today in Baku.
The team, led by Boban Babunski, and consisting of only 17 players managed to collect a minimal win. This was the first match after the sacking of Mirsad Jonuz and the last match before John Toshack takes over. Azerbaijan was the better side in the opening 45 minutes but Macedonia played with more urgency in the 2nd half and eventually recorded the victory.
Azerbaijan opened the game lively and the first chance of the game in the 5th minute but the shot by #19 of Azerbaijan was saved by the Macedonian keeper Tome Pacovski and it went for a corner. Azerbaijan continued the solid early play and forced Pacovski into a diving save in the 12th minute. Azerbaijan threatened to score on the rebound but the Macedonian defense just managed to clear the ball before a charging player from Azerbaijan was getting ready to strike the ball. In the 15th minute, Macedonia finally created its first chance through Ivan Trickovski who showed nice skill to create some space but his shot from a tight angle was saved by the opposing keeper and it went for a corner. Two minutes later, with Azerbaijan on a counter attack, they almost opened the scoring but a shot by one of their players went just wide of the goal. Vance Sikov was given a yellow card in the 20th minute in what turned out to be a smart foul as the Azerbaijan player had all of the momentum charging the Macedonian goal and Sikov had to stop him to prevent a big opportunity. The foul by Sikov paid off as the resulting free kick went way over the goal. Goran Popov then tested the keeper with a long range shot in the 23rd minute and the keeper had some problems and took no chances by pushing the ball for a corner. Overall, Macedonia played very poorly in the 1st half and was fortunate that the home side did not score a goal.
The 2nd half started with manager Boban Babunski bringing on Samir Fazli for the disappointing Aleksandar Trajkovski. Samir injected some energy into the team and brought a fighting spirit that resulted in more urgency for the rest of his teammates. The first chance in the 2nd half fell for Ferhan Hasani but his shot from outside of the box was saved by the opposing keeper. Macedonia was playing much better and Azerbaijan rarely threatened Pacovski. In the 56th minute, Trickovski made a run from the left before he attempted a shot but it was straight at the keeper who was able to gather the ball. A minute didn’t pass before Trickovski created some space but his powerful shot was blocked by the leg of an opposing defender. Trickovski was then substituted by Grozdanoski and seconds later, Macedonia opened the scoring with a goal from Goran Pandev. Goran Popov took a long throw in from the left and the ball eventually found Pandev in the box who turned and slotted the ball past the home keeper. Pacovski almost made a blunder in the 64th minute when he misplayed a long shot but he recovered and punched the ball for a corner. The game then slowed down and neither team created a chance until Macedonia almost scored an identical goal in the 82nd minute. Popov took another long throw in and the ball eventually found the substitute Grozdanoski but his shot went just wide of the goal. That proved to be the final chance of the game as the last ten minutes featured many stoppages due to numerous players suffering from cramps.
Brief highlights of the game, including the goal (at 0:50):
Macedonia started with a 4-2-3-1 formation as Babunski decided to start Pacovski in goal as opposed to Bogatinov. This was the starting 11:
Martin Bogatinov was the only player among the 17 called up that did not get a chance to play.
Lineup: Pacovski; Ristovski, Sikov, Mojsov, Popov; Demiri (77′ Georgievski), Sumulikoski (66′ Spirovski); Hasani (86′ Dimitrovski), Trajkovski (46′ Fazli), Trickovski (58′ Grozdanoski); Pandev.
Yellow cards: Sikov 20′, Sumulikoski 37′, Pandev 42′.
A win is a win and hopefully this game will serve as a nice morale booster before the qualification matches against Russia and Andorra in early September. This was the fifth meeting between Azerbaijan and Macedonia. Macedonia has now collected four wins with one draw during the five games against Azerbaijan.
Click here to view the match report.