By Nemanja Bjedov
APOEL coach Paolo Sergio was disappointed with his side’s 1-1 draw against NK Maribor in their Champions League third qualifying round first leg encounter, but he promised that the Cyprus champions will travel to Slovenia with the sole aim of qualifying for the playoff round.
“I am very proud of my players. I expect that we will play better in the matches to come and nobody should forget that this was our first official match of the season, compared to our opponents who played their seventh game,” he said.
“Obviously, we are not happy with this result, but we are still in the game and we will go to Slovenia in a confident mood,” Sergio added.
“I believe that foul on Mario Budimir at the end was a clear penalty, but the decision did not go our way. We watched Maribor against Birkirkara and their style against us was very different, as they chose to try and hit us on the counter-attack.
“We will go to Slovenia and play our game. We did have some problems with them in the beginning of the second half, but this is why we will be better in the second leg and with all due respect to them, we will be the ones to qualify for the next round,” he added.
APOEL midfielder Nuno Morais, who assisted Esmael Goncalves’ goal, shared his coach’s confidence.
“This is life – now we have to go over there and get a result. However, our target is always to win every game, so this is no different. We will just go there and try to win the game to get through,” he told the UEFA website.
“It was a bad result for us. I think we deserved much more as we played a very good game.
“We controlled the game, while they created one chance and scored one goal.
“So the result for us is not good, but we are happy with our performance, and we will go there to try and give our best again to get the result that we want,” Morais concluded.
Maribor goalscorer, Brazilian forward Marcos Tavares, who signed for the Slovenian champions in 2008 after previously making four appearances for APOEL, was delighted with the final result: “I am very happy because the team did very well and 1-1 is a very good result away from home.
“I am pleased to have scored and to help our team to get a positive start here in Cyprus.
“The second leg will be a very hard game, but we will be focused. We will do all we can to win the game and progress. I am very happy and very blessed; God helped me with this goal, and I hope in the next game God will bless me again.”
The return leg will be played on Tuesday in Maribor with the kick-off set for 9.45pm Cyprus time.