By Andreas Vou
Apollon slumped to a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Villarreal on Thursday as they were outplayed by the Spaniards who sealed their 10th straight home win in the Europa League.
Christakis Christoforou’s men had been on great form having won their previous six matches in a row, including a 3-2 win over FC Zurich in their opening group game.
The Limassol side needed a performance of similar nature if they were to cause yet another shock on the continent against the Yellow Submarines, but any hopes of doing so were quickly dashed.
Villarreal are known for their slick passing and quick movement, something which Apollon struggled to deal with and were duly punished. Lucian Vetto played a neat pass to fellow forward Gerard Moreno who tucked the ball away neatly through the legs of Bruno Vale.
Apollon were sloppy in possession and were only able to break out of their own half on a handful of occasions. Bruno Soriano and Jonathan dos Santos comfortably dictated play from midfield and proved a step above their guests throughout the night.
Fotis Papoulis had a half-hearted penalty claim correctly turned down by the referee and just seconds later, Villarreal grabbed a second on the counter attack.
Javier Espinosa, signed from Barcelona in the summer, latched onto an excellent pass from Cani and the Spaniard made no mistake with the finish, dinking the on-rushing Vale to make it 2-0 just before half-time.
The same theme followed in the second-half as Apollon continued to chase shadows.
Espinosa put the game beyond any doubt on 51 minutes with a stunning strike, cutting inside from the corner of the penalty box before unleashing an unstoppable curling effort into the top corner.
With just eight minutes left on the clock, Giovani dos Santos marauded through the Apollon defence before putting the ball on a plate for Moreno to also get his brace and seal a comfortable win for Villarreal.
Though suffering a heavy defeat on the night, it was not all bad news for Apollon as FC Zurich and Borussia Monchengladbach played out a 1-1 draw in the group’s other fixture, meaning the Cypriots stay second in Group A with three points. Nevertheless, Apollon were handed a footballing lesson by the Spaniards and will need to improve if they are to have serious hopes of qualifying.