Apoel earned a narrow 1-0 win in their Champions League second round first leg qualifying match against F91 Dudelange on Wednesday night at the GSP Stadium.
It was far from a vintage display from the Cyprus champions, as they needed a 71st minute Facundo Bertoglio strike to give them a slight advantage going into the second leg.
On a very hot and humid night in Nicosia, Apoel got off to a sluggish start, failing to control the game with the Luxembourg side looking fairly comfortable despite their daunting task.
The first good moment of the game for Apoel came on the 20-minute mark when new signing Tommy Oar hit the crossbar with a thunderbolt of a strike on the bounce.
However, aside from that excellent effort, Apoel failed to muster anything of note in the rest of the first 45 minutes, leaving the home faithful slightly concerned.
The second period started far more promisingly. Just three minutes in, a teasing inswinging free-kick was helped on by Bertoglio which crept just inches wide of the goal.
Five minutes later came a similar opportunity, as a free-kick from the other side was nodded goalwards by Igor De Camargo, leading the line for Apoel on the night, but eventually the ball bobbled well wide.
Apoel’s lack of fluidity, especially in the final third, left the fans feeling more and more nervous as the game went on. As heavy favourites, it was shaping up to be a disappointing evening.
Yet, on 71 minutes, those nerves subsided as Bertoglio who had gone mightily close not long before, was able to convert from inside the box to give Apoel what proved to be the winner.
Vander, on as a second-half substitute, failed to find anybody from his initial cross but his second attempt, via a deflection, fell to the Argentine who finished smartly with the outside of his boot.
Apoel would have envisaged a larger advantage going into the game but, under the circumstances, will be relieved to be taking an advantage into next Wednesday’s second leg.