By Nemanja Bjedov
DEFENDING champions APOEL managed a much-needed 1-0 victory over Aris in Round 5 of the national football championship on Monday night at the GSP Stadium in Nicosia, while Apollon needed two late goals to see off Doxa Katokopias at the Makarios Stadium, as Cyprus’ two Europa League representatives were back in domestic action.
“It was a very difficult few days for us. After the bad result in the Europa League on Thursday and coaching change, nothing was really going in our favour.
“We needed to be fully focused, to have the required passion and mind-set to achieve this victory,” assessed APOEL caretaker manager Yiannos Ioannou after the game.
Defensive midfielder Nuno Morais scored the only goal of the match in the 13th minute.
“I was pleased with all the players as they showed that they can perform under pressure, especially in the beginning of the game and once we scored, things were a bit easier for us. We showed some good moves which are definitely a sign of the quality that we have within our squad,” he added.
With the win, APOEL climbed to fifth place with 10 points. The club’s board are searching for a new coach after parting ways with Paulo Sergio last week. The top candidate, Israeli coach Ran Ben Shimon, has reportedly turned down an offer so attention has now shifted elsewhere with a long list of names linked to the job, which according to various reports includes Ronny Levy, Giorgos Donis and Sakis Tsolis among others.
“This was very hard game for me, because of the responsibility that it carried, but I followed my heart and that was leading me throughout. It is not good for our team to be without a coach for a long time and I hope we will appoint one very soon,” Ioannou concluded.
Also on Monday, Apollon beat Doxa Katokopia 2-0 away from home with Daniel Bram Haber and Fotios Papoulis on target inside the last 20 minutes.
The hosts had Spanish defender Pedro Baquero sent off for a professional foul in the 32nd minute which helped Apollon eventually grab all three points to join Anorthosis and Ermis on top of the standings with 12 points apiece.
“We faced a very good and organised team, which managed to beat Anorthosis last weekend. They had more possession at the beginning of the match, but once their player was sent off things were a lot different, that was the turning point,” said Apollon coach Christakis Christodoulou.
By Nemanja Bjedov