By Iacovos Constantinou
THE 72nd Cyprus Cup final takes place on Wednesday evening (7pm) at the GSP stadium in Nicosia between APOEL and relative newcomers to the top–flight, Ermis Aradippou.
APOEL go into the final as heavy favourites to lift the Cup for the 20th time. They have already won the Super Cup, look likely to be announced league champions on Thursday, albeit in the dark rooms of the Cyprus Football Association, with victory in the Cup possibly completing a hat-rick of wins, a feat that back in the autumn was considered inconceivable, even by the most loyal of their supporters.
Greek coach Giorgos Donis, who replaced Paolo Sergio last October, is the main reason behind this turnaround. He led APOEL to an impressive 23-match unbeaten run that eased the Nicosia giants back into the chase for the league title.
Funnily enough, the team that ended this run was none other than their Cup final opponents Ermis.
The club from Aradippou have been the surprise team of the season. Having pipped Omonia into fourth place and having already qualified for the preliminary rounds of the Europa League, a first Cup win in their history will be the icing on the cake in a superb season for them.
APOEL’s only real test in their route to the final was at the last sixteen stage when they were drawn against AEL. They beat the Limassol side in both legs of the tie and followed it up by knocking out Alki in the quarter-finals and Doxa in the semis with consummate ease.
APOEL will be without the injured Aloneftis and Kaka, who has not fully recovered after being hit by a flare against AEL on Saturday.
The draw was not so kind to Ermis who had to face tougher opponents from the first division, namely AEK Kouklion, AEK Larnaca and Apollon. Their semi-final tie against Apollon went into extra time with substitute Papathanasiou grabbing a brace to send Ermis into the final.
Ermis will be without their top scorer Tagbanjumi and defender Samaras (both suspended), while Moran is injured. Aurelio faces a late fitness test.
The Cup final has been in recent years the last game of the season and described by football officials and pundits as the final showpiece of the season. However, the weekend debacle in Limassol has dampened enthusiasm and the usual demagoguery has been absent in the build-up to this final.
All one is hoping for now is a trouble-free encounter.