Norway's hopes of reaching the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals were dealt a bitter blow by Zlatan Bajramovic's late strike.
Nils Johan Semb's side travelled to Bosnia-Herzegovina hoping for at least a point and the game seemed to be heading for a goalless draw when Bajramovic pounced with five minutes to go. Sergej Barbarez created the chance with a fierce shot which Norway goalkeeper Espen Johnsen could only block and Bajramovic scored from the rebound.
Home side start brightly
Bosnia-Herzegovina had started the brighter, carving out two openings inside the first six minutes. First, Johnsen was forced to produce an agile save from Hasan Salihamidzic's close-range header. Then, Barbarez raced down the wing and produced a fierce, low cross which produced havoc in the Norway defence, but ultimately proved fruitless.
Norway, meanwhile, created little of note in the first half as the hosts continued to pile on the pressure. In fact, Norway's first opportunity arrived as late as the 43rd minute when AS Roma forward John Carew crossed for Roar Strand who headed wide. And although the guests improved in the second half, they never really came close to scoring.
The home side tired, yet they always looked the more likely scorers. The Norway coach waited until the 73rd minute before making his first change, Tore André Flo replacing Carew. By then, Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Blaz Sliškovic had already made two substitutions, Mirsad Bešlija and Mirko Hrgovic replacing Salihamidzic and Vedin Music, to freshen up his team.
Norway did create one final chance before the Bosnians took the lead with defender Ronny Johnsen heading wide following a long John Arne Riise throw-in and a Brede Hangeland flick. That miss proved costly, though, as Bosnia-Herzegovina scored the only goal of the game four minutes later through Bajramovic.
Bosnia-Herzegovina could even have added a second in stoppage time but Johnsen deflected Elvir Bolic's free-kick over the bar. Naturally, Bosnia-Herzegovina coach Sliškovic was delighted with the result. He said: "This is what the job is all about, not giving up, and I promise we will give our best to win the remaining two matches."
Danes in pole position
In the group's other game, Romania beat Luxembourg 4-0 to leapfrog Norway into second place, level on points with leaders Denmark. Norway and Romania have played a match more than Denmark, however, while Bosnia-Herzegovina still have a small chance to qualify with their nine points from six games. They play Luxembourg away on Wednesday.