A first international goal in London for Tibet wasn’t enough for the Asian side to earn a point against the well supported Northern Cypriots, who now know that a draw in their final game against reigning champions Abkhazia will earn them a place in the last eight.
A goal within 100 second from striker Halil Turan was a bad omen for the Tibetans who were soundly beaten 3-0 in their opening encounter against Abkhazia, but they hung on through the opening half an hour as Northern Cyprus continued to waste good chances.
Tibet were unable to cope with the physicality of the Northern Cypriots but faired better going forward when they kept the ball on the ground and exercised a more patient approach.
It was uncertain how gifted the Tibetan were going to be going into the summer’s World Football Cup, but they have very much held their own in arguably the toughest group in the contest and were rewarded with an equaliser just before half time when Kalsang Topgyal beat his man on the left wing, cut inside and his low shot from a narrow angle went through the legs of both a defender and then the keeper to find its way into the back of the net.
Northern Cyprus came out in the second half knowing that a draw made progression to the next round very difficult and put Tibet under some increased pressure. They almost went behind immediately though when a poor clearance from Piro in the Cypriot goal went straight to the goalscorer Topgyal, but he couldn’t control his volley and it sailed wide of the empty net.
Northern Cyprus hit the bar just after the hour mark when a fantastic free kick from Ersalan was met by Ucar who couldn’t quite direct his shot on target. The favourites retook the lead a few minutes later though, Turan scoring his second of the game with a powerful finish at the near post after being threaded through Tibet’s back line. The keeper will be disappointed with his decision making as he tried to cover his far post, but Turan only had a small portion of the goal to aim at, and Samdup simply dived out of the way.
The result was sealed five minutes later by Gök, who had time and space in the box and lifted his shot over Samdup giving his side an unassailable advantage. Northern Cyprus now know that a draw against Abkhazia is all they need to progress, while Tibet’s chance of moving on are over, and face a tough test against Karpatalya in their final group game.
The highlight of the day was of course the crowd at Enfield Town. It has since been confirmed that the attendance record was broken at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium, although the highlight of the day was a Northern Cypriot band parading through the press box after their third goal went in. Tibet’s fans made a lot of noise on their own and the perimeter of the ground was draped with fans from both nations, hundreds of young cheering fans and a fantastic sense of community between both groups.