By Andreas Vou
The Cypriot trio of Apollon, Omonia and AEL all face tough challenges as they seek qualification to the group stages of the Europa League on Thursday.
It is the first time in history that Cyprus has three representatives at this stage of the competition and each of them put in solid performances in the first leg but the test remains harder for some than others.
Tottenham Hotspur vs. AEL (2-1 aggregate) 9.45pm
Few expected AEL to get anything out of their match against Tottenham at the Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium in Larnaca but the Limassol side took a shock lead after 14 minutes which they held for exactly an hour of play before Roberto Soldado and Harry Kane turned the game on its head with a goal each late on.
The 1-2 defeat gives AEL the unenviable task of having to win and score at least twice at White Hart Lane where Spurs have won eight of their last ten European home matches and lost just once.
Spurs have also started the Premier League season well, with two wins from their opening two games without conceding a goal. AEL began their campaign with a comfortable 0-2 away win over Nea Salamina last Sunday. Ivaylo Petev’s decision to make just two changes to his side however could be an indication that the league is now the main priority.
Omonia vs. Dynamo Moscow (2-2 aggregate) 7pm
Omonia are seeking their first progression to the group stages of European competition in their history and set a good marker in their first match away to Dynamo Moscow.
The Russians boast an array of high profile players such as Christopher Samba and Kevin Kuranyi and many expected an easy win for Dynamo in the first leg in front of their own fans. However, a goal within the first two minutes from Ucha Lobjanidze gave Omonia a shock 0-1 lead before Gaossou Fofana put Omonia 1-2 ahead after Samba had equalised.
Alexander Buttner made it 2-2 but Omonia’s two away goals give them a slight advantage going into the second leg where they will have the support of over 20,000 supporters at the GSP.
Omonia have been in fine form in the competition, winning all four of their previous qualifying matches prior to their meeting with Dynamo without conceding a goal.
Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Apollon (1-1 aggregate) 6pm
Apollon hosted Dynamo’s Moscow neighbours Lokomotiv in Nicosia but were unable to give themselves a lead to protect in the Russian capital. Alan Kasaev’s goal put Lokomotiv ahead just before the break and it was not until the 79th minute that Abraham Guie Gneki equalised for Apollon to significantly boost their chances of qualifying.
The Cypriots will be boosted by the return of talisman Gaston Sangoy who was suspended from the first leg due to a red card picked up in last year’s Europa League campaign.