A doggedly determined display from Apoel against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday night earned the Cyprus champions a 1-1 draw at Signal Iduna Park.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Giorgos Donis’ side against one of the strongest teams on the continent at home, and despite riding their luck at times, they eventually held on for a precious point which keeps them alive in Europe.
The surprise name in the line-up for Apoel was 32-year-old Spanish keeper Nauzet Perez, signed just two weeks ago on a free transfer.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang tested the debutant with a long-range drive early on which was well palmed away. The Spaniard then did excellently to tip Christian Pulisic’s volley wide.
The new boy was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as he denied Omer Toprak from point-blank range.
But the relentless pressure from the home side eventually brought about the opener. On 29 minutes, a lovely flick from Shinji Kagawa played in Raphael Guerreiro who finished emphatically.
It looked only a matter of time before Dortmund would score a second. A mistake allowed Aubameyang in on goal but his attempted dink over Perez failed to hit the target.
Yet, for all of the home side’s dominance, Apoel snatched a shock equaliser on the counter, with Carlao picking out Mickael Pote for a close-range finish.
Dortmund looked to waste no time in re-establishing their lead, as they laid siege to the Apoel goal. Though whatever they seemed to throw at them, Apoel refused to be beaten.
Aubameyang is so often the match-winner for Dortmund, but even he could not rescue the situation as his header 13 minutes from time smacked the crossbar via the faintest of fingertips from Perez
The Gabonese striker missed a header in the dying moments of the meeting in Nicosia, and did the same this time around with a poor miss from six yards out.
With seconds remaining, Mario Gotze’s long-range strike had Apoel fans’ hearts in their mouths as it swung dangerously close to the goal, but thankfully landed inches wide.
The result leaves the two sides level on two points each, with that third Europa League spot still very much up for grabs.
Results from the Champions League on Wednesday:
Borussia Dortmund 1
Real Madrid 1
NK Maribor 0
Spartak Moscow 1
Man City 4
Shakhtar Donetsk 3
RB Leipzig 1