The football championship came to an end over the weekend with Apoel crowned champions for the 26th time in their illustrious history. It was their fifth consecutive title, a feat that was last achieved by the Nicosia club during the 1930’s (1935-1940), almost eighty years ago.
This success was made all the more important as this year Apoel will have played the most games in the history of Cyprus football, a total of 60 in all competitions, 12 more than second placed AEK and 14 more than Apollon, their opponents in Wednesday’s Cup final.
It is true that Apoel did not always play the most attractive football but they had the mettle and the experience to see them through games when their main rivals, AEK and Apollon, faltered when least expected.
AEK dropped points against teams that were eventually relegated while Apollon dropped seven points against Anorthosis, a team the finished bottom of the Championship group.
At the end of the day though numbers do not lie and the most consistent and effective team won the title.
Apoel finished the season as the team with the most wins and the least defeats, while they also scored the most goals and conceded the least with their Dutch goalkeeper, Boy Waterman, keeping the most clean sheets.
The champions were also the team (at least from the top half of the table) with the highest number of game time for Cypriots, with four or five local players regularly featuring in the starting line-up.
One of those, Pieros Sotiriou, proved to be the pleasant surprise of the season for the champions.
Sotiriou began the season as the team’s second string striker. However, through hard work and perseverance he became irreplaceable. His glittering displays, especially against European giants in the Europa League, earned him (and Apoel) a lucrative transfer to Danish champions Copenhagen, with his team bagging a reported €2.5 million, a record for a Cypriot footballer.
Sotiriou netted 21 goals in the league and finished second only to Omonia’s Matt Derbyshire.
Perhaps Apoel’s only blemish this season was that they failed to beat their two main rivals in the championship: AEK and Apollon.
AEK pushed the champions all the way, but for the third consecutive season had to contend with second place.
Injuries to key players (Tomas and Triscovski) on the one hand and lack of championship experience proved costly for the Larnaca outfit.
Apollon on the other hand got off to terrible first half of the season and it was only when Cypriot coach Sofronis Avgousti took charge of the team in December that they sprung to life. They went on a remarkable 15 game unbeaten run, picking up 39 points.
Their unbeaten run was finally halted by Anorthosis at the beginning of April and this proved a major turning point for Apollon’s title hopes.
AEL, along with the top three, will be playing in the Europa League qualifiers next season leaving Omonia without a European ticket for the first time in 15 years.
All three teams that were promoted this season, AEZ, Anagennisi Dheryneias and Karmiotissa were unable to cope with the pressures and quality of the top flight and were sent packing back down to the second division.
AEZ Zakakiou finished bottom of the league with just 5 points, while the team just above them Anagennisi Dheryneias did not manage a single win.
The third team that was relegated, Karmiotissa, caught the eye of football fans early on in the season with their open attacking play and were more than a match for most teams.
Karmiotissa, was also just one of three teams (Apoel & AEK the other two) that finished the season with the same coach as the one they had started with.
However, their squad was clearly lacking in-depth and this proved to be their downfall. Towards the finale, injuries and suspension deprived them of key players in crucial matches.
The football season draws to a close with Wednesday’s Cup final between champions Apoel and third placed Apollon.
Results of the weekend games:
Apoel vs Apollon 2-2
AEL vs Omonia 3-2
Anorthosis vs AEK 0-1
Doxa vs Nea Salamina 0-3
Ermis vs Ethnikos 3-4
Karmiotissa vs Aris 5-1
Click here to watch highlights of the games