By Iacovos Constantinou
AEL and APOEL were the winners on the first day of the playoffs with the third game between Apollon and Omonia ending in a goaless draw.
In the relegation playoffs, AEK Kouklion lost with their nearest rivals, Aris and Ethnkos Achnas both winning.
Two goals in the opening twenty minutes from Saccheti and Kaluderovic and a third from Edmar in the final minute of the first half were enough to give AEL all three points against Anorthosis. The final score could have been even more embarrassing for Anorthosis had AEL not missed a number of excellent chances and had not had a perfectly good goal disallowed.
Second-placed APOEL maintained the pressure on AEL with a slender 2-1 win over Ermis Aradippou at the Ammochostos stadium. This was Ermis’ first home defeat of the season.
APOEL’s Greek coach Giorgos Donis admitted after the game that it was not a great performance by his team but what mattered was that they came away from the game with all three points. De Vincenti opened the score when he converted a 40th minute penalty and Aloneftis headed in the second two minutes from the end after good work by Manduca and Santin. An own goal from Kaka ensured a nervy finish for the defending champions.
Omonia continued their mini-revival under new coach Kaiafas with an excellent performance against Apollon in Limassol. However the Nicosia side were unable to find the net despite creating enough chances to have the game wrapped up by the break.
The Omonia coach rued the fact that his team has just one out-and-out striker, a youngster who has only played 140 minutes of football this season.
Apollon’s coach was clearly unhappy with his side’s performance but said they will soldier on as there are still nine games to go and a possible 27 points to win.
Despite trailing by two goals against Doxa early in the game, Ethnikos Achnas fought back and with goals from their two defenders, Tall and Andelovic, and a third from January signing Burgic, staged a magnificent fightback recording a 3-2 win.
Doxa are now looking over their shoulders as they are just two points ahead of Ethnikos and five from Aris.
Aris, despite missing players through suspension, fought hard throughout the game and managed to overcome an indifferent AEK Larnaca 3-1. Yousef, Timof and Okoye got the goals for Aris while Mitides got a consolation goal with twenty minutes to go.
In the third play-off group game, AEK Kouklion got off to a great start when striker Stambolziev put them ahead in the first minute. However Nea Salamina upped the pace after the break and goals from Curjric and Monteiro gave them the win sinking AEK Kouklion into last place.