Adrián Sardinero scored in the 93rd minute to salvage a precious point for Apollon against a much-fancied Lyon side in the Europa League Group E opener on Thursday night.
Sofronis Avgousti’s men looked to be heading to defeat after Memphis Depay netted a contentious penalty but the hosts stuck at it and eventually scored with just seconds left on the clock to earn a merited draw at the GSP Stadium.
After a dull start to the game, it came to life just midway through the half when Nabil Fekir drove at the Apollon defence before firing an effort with his weaker left foot which went just wide.
Alex Da Silva for Apollon was then teed up on the edge of the box but his effort dribbled harmlessly wide. In the next attack, Lyon striker Mariano Diaz attacked a cross from Rafael but his header went wide of the mark, leaving Bruno Vale untroubled.
Unfazed by his earlier dismal effort, Da Silva tried his luck from similar distance, this time with a free kick, and his strike was headed for the top corner had it not been very well saved by Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes.
It was then Diaz’s turn to have a second try, and with a shot on the turn, despite being off balance, managed to force Apollon’s Bruno Vale into a good stop.
The Limassol side so nearly got the breakthrough at the start of the second half with two big chances. A fine backheel from Andre Schembri played striker partner Anton Maglica through on goal but his save was met with the solid palms of Lopes
From the resulting corner, Valentin Roberge leapt highest to head goalwards but Lopes was again on hand to deny with another fine stop.
Just as Apollon’s momentum was brewing however, Lyon broke down the other end and were awarded a harsh but justifiable penalty. Gnaly Maxwell Cornet crossed from the right and, in jumping to block the pass, Jander unintentionally handled the ball. The referee initially looked uninterested but his official behind the goal deemed it a spot-kick and thus the penalty was given.
Vale guessed the right way but Depay’s strike was simply too accurate as it nestled perfectly into the corner of the net for the go-ahead goal.
Apollon may well have felt aggrieved at the decision but they got away with one shortly after. Rafael beat Bruno Vale to a loose aerial ball in the box, with the Portuguese keeper inadvertently making contact with the former Manchester United full-back in his attempt to punch clear. The official behind the goal again gave a penalty but the referee over-ruled and bizarrely gave the decision the other way.
Apollon continued to play in their familiar attacking style and were eventually rewarded as two substitutes combined to devastating effect.
Nico Martinez took on one defender, then outpaced another before crossing hopefully into the box. Sardinero arrived on cue to toe-poke towards goal and, via a fortunate deflection off of Lyon defender Marcelo, the ball clipped the inside of the post and into the net, sending the Limassol fans into raptures.
Up next for Apollon in the Europa League is a trip to Everton on 28 September.
Results from Thursday night’s other Europa League matches:
Slavia Prague (Czech Republic) 1 Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) 0
Villarreal (Spain) 3 FC Astana (Kazakhstan) 1
Young Boys (Switzerland) 1 Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) 1
Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) 3 Skenderbeu (Albania) 1
Istanbul Basaksehir (Turkey) 0 Ludogorets (Bulgaria) 0
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim (Germany) 1 Braga (Portugal) 2
Austria Vienna (Austria) 1 AC Milan (Italy) 5
Rijeka (Croatia) 1 AEK (Greece) 2
Atalanta Bergamo (Italy) 3 Everton (England) 0
Fastav Zlin (Czech Republic) 0 Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova) 0
FC Copenhagen (Denmark) 0 Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia) 0
FCSB (Romania) 3 Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 0
Hapoel Beer Sheva (Israel) 2 FC Lugano (Switzerland) 1
Arsenal (England) 3 Cologne (Germany) 1
Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) 1 BATE Borisov (Belarus) 1
Hertha Berlin (Germany) 0 Athletic Club (Spain) 0
Zorya Luhansk (Ukraine) 0 Ostersunds FK (Sweden) 2
FK Vardar (Macedonia) 0 Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) 5
Real Sociedad (Spain) 4 Rosenborg Trondheim (Norway) 0
Olympique Marseille (France) 1 Konyaspor (Turkey) 0
Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal) 1 Salzburg (Austria) 1
Vitesse Arnhem (Netherlands) 2 Lazio (Italy) 3
Zulte Waregem (Belgium) 1 Nice (France) 5