By Iacovos Constantinou
The tenant at the top of the league changed yet again after Apollonas lost to Ermis Aradippou and APOEL defeated Anorthosis by a solitary goal. At the bottom end Ethnikos Achnas edged towards safety after overcoming strugglers Othellos Athienou while Doxa lost to a late goal against AEL.
Apollonas’s coach Ioan Andone described his team’s performance against Ermis as worst performance since he took charge.
The Limassol side were a shadow of the team that netted an average of three goals per game since the turn of the year. They were kept in check by a disciplined and hard working Ermis who were the better team and who could have been ahead at half time as Manu’s strike seemed to have passed the line before Apollon’s keeper Vale clawed it back to safety.
The winning goal came in the 72nd minute from Ermis’s top scorer Onilo who beat Vale with a sublime strike from the edge of the box.
APOEL produced one of their best performances, especially in the first half, since Thorsten Fink took over in January, but got the three points thanks to a fortuitous Riise cross that was deflected over the visitors keeper Kaminski just after the half hour mark.
The home side missed a number of chances to extend their lead but their forward line was unable to beat the visitor’s keeper.
On the other Anorthosis were clearly affected by the absence of key players, especially in the final third of the field, and rarely threatened APOEL’s stand in keeper Dionysis Chiotis.
The two sides will meet again on Wednesday for third time in the space of a week for the second leg of the cup.
In the last top group game AEK Larnaca came back from behind to beat Omonia by two goals to one.
The win lifts the Larnaca team into third place, three points above the Nicosia team.
Omonia’s Leandro opened the score direct from a free kick from just outside the area while AEK scored a couple of goals either side of halftime.
Murillo stabbed the ball into the net from close range in the 44th minute while young Cypriot striker Nestoras Mitides blasted the ball past Omonia keeper Giorgallides in the 47th minute for the winner.
Omonia could not respond and it was AEK who missed a glaring opportunity to make the game safe midway into the second half.
In the bottom group Ethnikos Achnas took a huge stride towards safety after beating Othellos Athienou by three goals to one.
Ethnikos took the lead through a Valdo penalty in the 17th minute and Roin doubled the score early in the second half. Belford added a third in the 77th minute before Grigalasvili got Othellos’s consolation goal three minutes from time.
For the third game this season Ayia Napa and Nea Salamina played out a draw with the plaudits going to Ayia Napa’s young keeper Kittos who produced a string of excellent saves to thwart Nea Salamina’s forwards.
A 75th minute Tagbanjumi header gave AEL the win against Doxa Katokopias in Nicosia’s Makareion stadium.
AEL had taken the lead in their first attacking foray in the 11th minute when Sema headed into an empty net after Doxa’s Hadjifrangiscou had parried Ohene’s goalbound effort.
Doxa replied just a couple of minutes later when Fegrus, the AEL keeper, attempted to clear the ball but only managed to hit the back of Gil and into an empty net.
The Limassol team also hit the woodwork twice before Tagbanjumi’s late winner.
LEAGUE STANDINGS after 23 games
2.APOLLONAS LEMESOU 48
4.OMONOIA LEFKOSIAS 39
6.ERMIS ARADIPPOU 38
7.AEL LEMESOU 33
8.ETHNIKOS ACHNAS 25
9.NEA SALAMINA 20
10.AG. NAPA 17
11.OTHELLOS ATHIAINOU 16
12.DOXA KATOKOPIAS 14