Andorrans celebrate historic first victory

A classy strike from the midfielder Marc Bernaus gave Andorra their first victory in a competitive match with a surprise 1-0 win at home against Macedonia in a Group One World Cup qualifier yesterday.

A classy strike from the midfielder Marc Bernaus gave Andorra their first victory in a competitive match with a surprise 1-0 win at home against Macedonia in a Group One World Cup qualifier yesterday.

Bernaus, who plays for the Spanish Second Division side Elche, cracked home a superb volley from the edge of the area on the hour to delight the 200 fans gathered at the Estadi Comunal.

"For Andorra to win a special set of circumstances have to occur," said their coach, David Rodrigo. "First, we have to play to 100 per cent of our ability; second our rivals have to be overconfident; and third we need a bit of luck - all three of those things happened today and we should enjoy it while we can."

Although they have previously beaten Belarus and Albania in friendly matches, Andorra, who only became members of Fifa in 1996, lost all their 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 qualifying games.

The team from the tiny Pyrenean principality began this campaign in similar fashion, losing their opener 3-0 in Finland and crashing to a 5-1 defeat at home to Romania last time out.

But Rodrigo's side, who conceded three goals in the first 16 minutes of their defeat to Romania, made a far more convincing start by hounding Macedonia in midfield and giving them little time on the ball in the first half.

The visitors, who claimed a comprehensive 3-0 win over Armenia in their opening match and a surprise 2-2 draw also at home against the Netherlands on Saturday, enjoyed just two half-chances in the opening 45 minutes.

Striker Aco Stojkov was robbed of the ball by Andorra's Koldo as he tried to finish off an early attack and the goalkeeper produced another sharp save to stop defender Txema heading into his own net in added time.

But it was Andorra who broke the deadlock 15 minutes after the break when Bernaus volleyed past goalkeeper Jane Nikoloski after chesting down a long throw-in on the edge of the area.

The home side endured a nervous final quarter as Macedonia piled forward in search of the equaliser but they produced a fine defensive display to hold out for a memorable victory leaving the visitors with just four points from four matches.

"This was a shameful result for us and has effectively ended our hopes of qualifying," said Macedonia coach Dragan Kanatlarovski. "I never thought we would lose and it was certainly the worst performance I've seen from the team since I took charge."

In Group Eight, Bulgaria recovered from an early setback to hammer Malta 4-1 in yesterday's World Cup qualifier in Sofia. Malta's Michael Mifsud punished a defensive blunder when he volleyed in a cross from Stefan Giglio in the 12th minute.

Bulgaria trailed for most of the half, but Dimitar Berbatov levelled two minutes before the break, heading the ball in after being set up by Martin Petrov.

Hristo Yanev made it 2-1 to Bulgaria with a free-kick from 25 yards shortly after the break and then created a second for Berbatov in the 56th minute. Chavdar Yankov scored from close range three minutes from time after Bulgaria had squandered several opportunities.

The victory put unbeaten Bulgaria top of Group Eight with seven points, the same as Croatia who they drew 2-2 with on Saturday.

The Czech Republic kept cool to see off a combative Armenian side 3-0, adding to last weekend's victory over Romania to bring their qualifying campaign firmly back on track in Group One.

Striker Jan Köller scored two in Yerevan - his first headed in from a free-kick after three minutes. Tomas Rosicky also scored with a crashing drive from outside the penalty area.

Armenia have lost all three of their games and remain firmly bottom of the group.

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