Cyprus Mail

APOEL held to disappointing draw

By Nemanja Bjedov
APOEL could only manage a 1-1 draw against Slovenian champions NK Maribor in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie on Wednesday night at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
The Cyprus champions went on the attack early against their opponents, who looked for chances to strike on the break.
The tactic paid off as APOEL took the lead in the 21st minute. Nuno Morais found Esmael Goncalves in the penalty area and the Portuguese striker took the ball on his chest, turned quickly and rifled the ball home past Jasmin Handanovic in Maribor’s goal.
The pace of the match began to drop towards the end of the first half, but the Nicosia giants had a firm grip on the proceedings.
After the interval, the Slovenians took the initiative, but failed to create any clear-cut chances until their captain Marcos Tavares equalised to stun the home crowd. The experienced Brazilian managed to connect with Aleksandar Rajcevic’s cross, beating Urko Pardo in goal.
The hosts them started piling the pressure on and new manager Paolo Sergio introduced three attack-minded players and shifted one of them, forward Efstathios Aloneftis, into the highly unusual position of left back.
The substitutions didn’t really work though but APOEL had a penalty claim turned away in the final minute of the match when Mario Budimir went down in the box.
Instead of pointing to the spot, the referee instead showed the Croatian forward a yellow card.
The second leg will be played on Tuesday in Maribor with the kick-off scheduled for 9.45pm Cyprus time.

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