Belgium escapes with 1-1 draw against Bosnia
ZENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia-Herzegovina goalie Asmir Begovic fumbled an easy shot from Radja Nainggolan on Monday to allow Belgium to escape with a 1-1 away draw that keeps it in a strong position in Group B of European Championship qualifying.
Wales consolidated the lead in the group by beating Cyprus 2-1 to sit one point ahead of Israel, which swept past Andorra 4-1.
Wales, led by Gareth Bale and trying to qualify for its first major championship, has 7 points from 3 games with Israel on 6 and Belgium on 4 points from 2 games. Cyprus has 3 points and Bosnia, a favorite to join Belgium in qualifying from the group, is in trouble with 2 points from 3 games.
“Getting a point in Bosnia is not bad,” said winger Kevin De Bruyne.
In the battle between the only two World Cup finalists in the group, Bosnia took the lead in the 28th minute through captain Edin Dzeko. After being dominated early in the game, playmaker Miralem Pjanic found Dzeko wide open on the edge of the penalty area, and the Manchester City striker gave Thibaut Courtois no chance with a strong drive.
The delight of the raucous home crowd of 15,000 at the Bilino Polje stadium in Zenica turned to despair in the 51st minute when Toby Alderweireld passed into the center where Nainggolan just got his right foot in for a shot through the center that Begovic somehow failed to get a grip on.
“It may have been a goalkeeper blunder, but the important thing was that we got the goal,” Nainggolan said.
In Cardiff, Wales took a two-goal lead within 23 minutes through early strikes from substitute David Cotterill and Hal Robson-Kanu and somehow still made it a cliffhanger.
Vincent Laban got Cyprus back into the game by halftime, and when Wales midfielder Andy King was sent off for a foul on Cyprus captain Constantinos Makridis in the 47th minute, the home side faced a struggle till the end.
“When I saw the red card I thought it had killed us. We should have been three or four up but got sloppy,” manager Chris Coleman said.
Israel had no such worries in Andorra. Omer Damari scored a hat trick and Tomer Hemed added a penalty in injury time. It left Israel with a two straight victories, but it still has to face Belgium in a postponed game.
Raf Casert can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/rcasert