By Iacovos Constantinou
A goal midway through the second half was enough to give Apollon the three points against leaders APOEL and throw the championship race wide open with two more games to play.
At the other end of the table, Othellos Athienou said goodbye to the first division after they lost to Nea Salamina in Larnaca.
Ton Caanen, Apollon’s coach, had to wait four games before he could savour victory with his new team, but it could not have come at a better time. With the crucial win, the Limassol team is two points off the top and if they manage to draw level on points with APOEL, they hold the goal advantage.
The Dutchman outwitted APOEL’s Thorsten Fink as his team controlled play throughout the 90 minutes. Merkis was dominant at the back while Apollon’s two wingbacks snuffed out any chance of the visitors gaining an advantage on the flanks.
Up front Papoullis and Thuram were a constant menace and should have scored more than the solitary goal.
After the game Caanen congratulated his players for their flawless performance but admitted: “We are not favourites yet for the title.”
In yet another game APOEL were a shambles. According to Fink, his team’s game-plan was to sit deep, absorb the pressure and hit Apollon on the break.
“All my players were in poor form. We shall analyse the game and work hard for our next match,” he added.
In fact Fink got it wrong as not all his players played badly as APOEL’s 37-year-old keeper Chiotis was probably the man of the match as it was his heroics that kept the scoreline at a ‘respectable’ level.
For the record the only goal of the game came in the 66th minute when Greek striker Papoulis lobbed the ball past Chiotis after the keeper had twice thwarted Apollon’s strikers from close range and with APOEL’s defence unable to clear the ball, Papoulis made no mistake at the third attempt.
In a poor game in Nicosia, Omonia defeated Anorthosis 2-1 with all the goals being scored in the first half.
Fofana blasted Omonia into the lead with a thunderous strike from the edge of the area only for the visitors’ top striker Makris to equalise midway into the half. The winner was scored by Kirm nine minutes before the break.
Omonia seem to have tied up fourth place but are still two points off third that guarantees European qualification.
In the last Group A game, AEK made hard work of their tie against a youthful Ermis and needed a 68th minute Colautti header to give them the three points.
Mitides had given AEK a 12th minute lead but Ermis’ captain Papathanasiou equalised just before the break.
Othellos Athienou will be the team relegated to the second division this season as they lost 1-0 to Nea Salamina.
The only goal of the game was scored by Enrique in the 56th minute.
Ayia Napa and Doxa were both celebrating at the end of their goalless draw in Paralimni while AEL continued their miserable play-off run with yet another defeat to Ethnikos Achnas this time.