By Nemanja Bjedov
AFTER a goalless draw against Maccabi in Tel Aviv in the opening round of the Europa League group stage on Thursday night, Cyprus champions APOEL now focus on the match against AEK Larnaca in the third round of the national championship, which is scheduled for Monday evening at 7pm at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia.
“This result represents a valuable contribution to an important event. We prepared properly for this match and I am satisfied because my players gave everything they had on the pitch,” said APOEL coach Paulo Sergio at his press conference in Israel.
Urko Pardo saved Barak Itzhaki’s 95th-minute penalty to give APOEL a point from a match in which they failed to create a single clear-cut goal scoring opportunity.
“Pardo is a very good goalkeeper and he had a great match. He made some mistakes in previous matches and we talked about them. I am actually very pleased with all three goalkeepers in our squad. I am also very proud of the fans who followed us in Israel and I am hopeful that at the end of the season we will have good reasons for celebration and nobody should forget that we are still only at the beginning.
“About our next opponent in the league, AEK, we start thinking about them immediately,” Sergio concluded.
Despite a good performance, Cyprus Cup holders Apollon lost 2-1 to Turkish side Trabzonspor on Thursday night in Nicosia. The visitors snatched a late winner as substitute Yusuf Erdogan got the decisive goal in the 86th minute to give his team a perfect start to life in Group J.
“The effort of the players was immense. We played really well but we were not fortunate enough to convert the opportunities we had. A defeat is a defeat but if we managed to earn a point that would have been much better for our psychological approach and the media, and our fans would have more faith in us,” assessed Apollon coach Christakis Christoforou.
“Now we have three days to rest and prepare for our next league match against Omonia,” added Christoforou whose side host the Nicosia giants on Monday night at 7pm at the Tsirion Stadium in Limassol.
In the opening match of the third round, on Saturday at 7pm, Doxa Katokopia host Ermis Aradippou, while an hour later Enosis Neon Paralimni take on AEL at the Tasos Markou Stadium.
On Sunday afternoon at 6pm, AEK Kouklion face Aris Limassol and Alki meet Anorthosis.
At the Dasaki Stadium in Achna, Ethnikos host Nea Salamina at 7pm.
By Nemanja Bjedov