Cyprus bounced back from their opening UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying defeat with a stunning 5-2 victory over a Republic of Ireland side who slumped to a second successive loss in Group D.
Cyprus had gone down 6-1 in Slovakia in their first match but despite conceding an early Ireland goal they got their campaign back on track with Michalis Konstantinou and substitute Constantinos Charalambides both scoring twice in an emphatic triumph. For Ireland, who had Richard Dunne sent off late on, this was their worst result in a competitive game since a 6-0 reverse against Austria in 1971.
The visitors, impressive in their 1-0 defeat in Germany last month, were handicapped by the suspension of coach Steve Staunton but got off to a strong start nonetheless with a goal after eight minutes from Stephen Ireland. A left-wing ball from Damien Duff was headed back by Aiden McGeady into the path of Manchester City FC midfielder Ireland and the 20-year-old drilled in a fine right-footed shot.
The lead lasted just two minutes as Andy O'Brien's wayward clearance fell perfectly for Konstantinou and he atoned for an earlier miss with an assured finish. Another defensive error, this time from keeper Paddy Kenny, deputising for the injured Shay Given, presented Alexandros Garpozis with a free header to score after 16 minutes. Ireland replied, somewhat against the run of play, with an equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Duff's corner was met by Dunne's head with the Manchester City defender converting in style.
However, the exuberant Cyprus side regained their advantage five minutes into the second half when Efstathios Aloneftis was taken down by O'Brien in the area and Konstantinou coolly finished from the penalty spot. More sloppy defending contributed to the fourth Cyprus goal after 60 minutes, with Konstantinos Makridis setting up substitute Charalambides to shoot low into the net from inside the box.
Charalambides netted his second 15 minutes from time as he followed up after Kenny had saved Konstantinou's powerful header. Ireland's misery was compounded when Dunne was dismissed for a second yellow card on 78 minutes. He will miss Ireland's next fixture as they seek their first point of the campaign at home to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Cyprus travel to Cardiff to face Wales, buoyed by arguably the best result in their history.