Bulgaria beat Cyprus to end winless streak

SOFIA - Bulgaria beat Cyprus 2-0 on Wednesday to end their four-match winless run in World Cup qualifying Group Eight. Striker Ivelin Popov fired the opening goal after eight minutes when his header from Dimitar Rangelov's left-wing cross gave Cyprus keeper Antonis Giorgallidi no chance. Bulgaria, again missing key players including captain Dimitar Berbatov, squandered several opportunities to extend their lead before substitute Dimitar Makriev sealed victory deep into stoppage time. Cyprus's best chance came in the 53rd minute when Elias Charalambous hit the post from close range. "I'm extremely happy," Bulgaria coach Stanimir Stoilov told reporters. "It's a very important win for our team as we boosted our chances to reach the finals." Italy top the group standings with 13 points from five matches, followed by Ireland on 11. Bulgaria, who drew their first four matches, are third with seven points from five games. Italy meet Ireland later on Wednesday and Bulgaria next face a crucial home game against the Irish on June 6.