Apoel were eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday after a 1-0 defeat (2-0 aggregate) at the hands of Anderlecht, bringing their memorable campaign to an end at the last-16 stage.
As was the case in the first leg, a solitary strike separated the two sides though, in truth, it could have been a fair few more this time around, and Apoel showed few signs of ever getting back in the tie.
Thomas Christiansen likely set out to keep things tight at the back early on before eventually venturing out in pursuit of a crucial away goal. Yet that plan very nearly went drastically wrong in the opening 15 minutes.
Ioannou had his pocket picked just outside the area but Tielemans’ square pass, to Apoel’s relief, was flagged offside.
With little time to catch breath, Teodorczyk was played in on goal seconds later but Waterman spread his legs well and made a vital stop.
Waterman was the busiest man on the field, especially in those frantic opening minutes. The Dutchman made unconventional stops to deny Hanni and Nazar from range, which could have ended up anywhere.
Apoel managed to weather the early storm, which allowed them to be a bit more daring in the second half in pursuit of levelling the tie.
Sotiriou hit a powerful effort from outside the box right at the start of the second period but it was unable to force Ruben into making his first save in the game.
Then, a quick counter-attack led by Gianniotas ended in the speedy Greek winger laying the ball off to Ebecilio, but his strike went high and wide.
On the hour-mark, with the game more stretched than ever by this point, Anderlecht broke free through Nazar who fed Hanni on the edge of the box. The captain was able to turn and fire a low strike towards goal, bringing Waterman into a good save.
With so many near-misses for the Belgians, Apoel were beginning to think it could be their night, but that hope soon vanished as the hosts eventually went ahead.
Artymatas was robbed in the middle of the field, sparking a four-on-three breakaway. Hanni broke into the box to strike on target and, though Waterman got his hand on the ball, the rebound fell to Acheampong who swept home the breakthrough goal.
Bertoglio was brought on to ignite Apoel’s attacking options and almost had an instant impact, firing a ball dangerously across goal but the multiple ricochets did not fall in the visitors’ favour.
On 79 minutes, Artymatas had a long-range drive well saved by the keeper, in what was Apoel’s only attempt on goal throughout the game. Needless to say, with such little action in front of goal, it was never going to be enough to overturn the mountainous task.
Nevertheless, the campaign will go down as one of the most historic achievements for the club and Cypriot football in general. It is the furthest any side from the island has gone in the Europa League and one imagines that Apoel’s feat of reaching the last 16 will take some years to surpass.
Results from the other Europa League games on Thursday night:
Besiktas 4 – Olympiacos 1
FK Krasnodar 0 – Celta Vigo 2
Genk 1 – Gent 1
Ajax 2 – FC Copenhagen 0
B. M’Gladbach 2 – Schalke* 2
Roma 2 – Lyon 1
Manchester United 1 – FC Rostov 0