By Andreas Vou
AEL won their first Cypriot Super Cup in 30 years after defeating APOEL 4-3 in a penalty shootout after a goalless draw on Wednesday night, claiming the first piece of silverware of the new Cypriot football season.
APOEL’s double success last season meant that cup runners-up AEL would be their Super Cup opponents, and they had plenty of reason to feel confident following the 4-2 win in the Cypriot Cup at the back end of the last campaign. But this game was too prove a stark contrast to last May’s meeting between the two.
Being just six days away, APOEL evidently had one eye on the first leg of their Champions League playoff match against FC Astana as manager Domingos Paciencia handed Giorgos Efrem and Semir Stilic their first starts of the season, among other changes.
Matias Degra, who holds legendary status at AEL for his exploits in the 2011-12 season in which they won the Cypriot first division, returned to the club this summer and went straight back into the starting eleven.
The Argentine almost had to pick the ball out of his own net early on after great combination play between Efrem and Stilic saw the Cypriot forward’s effort saved on the line by the AEL defence. The APOEL duo looked keen to give their manager a selection headache ahead of Tuesday’s big game.
For AEL, chances were few and far between, other than a double chance midway through the first period which forced a good double save by APOEL keeper Boy Waterman.
With APOEL’s big European date just days away, the last thing they would have wanted was to lose any key players through injury, but Brazilian defender Carlao suffered a knock early in the second half and was substituted for Joao Guilherme as a precaution.
In what was a largely cagey affair, chances remained minimal in the second period with both sides unable to muster any clear cut opportunity to get the breakthrough and so the match had to be decided on penalties.
The Cypriot Super Cup has no extra-time and so the match went straight to the lottery of a penalty shootout. After four accurate spot-kicks, Marios Antoniades shot wide at 2-2, while another miss for APOEL through Efrem turned the odds further into AEL’s favour.
An excellent save by Waterman and a successful spot kick from Tomas De Vincenti gave the Nicosia club hope but, at 3-3, up stepped AEL captain Marios Nikolaou to calmly tuck away the decisive penalty and hand AEL the first trophy of the campaign.
It is AEL’s first Super Cup win since 1985 while APOEL have now lost their second such match back-to-back following last season’s defeat to Ermis.