By Iacovos Constantinou
APOEL moved a step closer to their third straight title despite drawing with fellow title challengers AEK as their closest rivals Apollon were unexpectedly beaten by the ‘indifferent’ Anorthosis.
Almost 16,000 fans (large majority APOEL supporters) flocked to the GSP on Saturday to watch the crucial match between APOEL and AEK Larnaca. With both teams needing the three points, a tense but exciting game was expected.
The replacement of German coach Fink with former fan favourite Manduca last week was done to change the mood in the APOEL ranks. However, for yet another game, the Nicosia team was second best and found wanting in all departments.
Assistant coach Satsias admitted indirectly at the post –game press conference that APOEL have not been at their best in recent games and sent a message to APOEL fans.
“In the last two games we will make our supporters proud, be sure about that,” he said referring, to the Cyprus Cup final on Wednesday and the final league game away to Ermis where APOEL need just a point to be crowned champions.
Few would argue that AEK were the better side on the day and had Monteiro’s shot ten minutes from time not whizzed past the wrong side of the post AEK would have been in the driving seat to lift the championship for the first time in their history.
The draw left a bitter-sweet taste for the team from Larnaca. Their Danish coach Thomas Christiansen was full of praise for his players after the game but also noted: “we should have been happy with what we achieved this season but in the changing rooms the mood is gloomy”.
AEK took the lead after Tomas was felled by Vinicius in the box and referee Trattos awarded a penalty. Bolievic stepped up and smashed the ball past Chiotis.
Much as they tried the home team were unable to penetrate the AEK defence and they needed a rather soft penalty to bring the game level. Defender Elias Charambous was adjudged to have tugged at Kaka’s shirt and Trattos pointed to the spot again.
De Vincenti sent AEK’s keeper the wrong way to equalise.
APOEL tried to increase the tempo in the second half and showed more resolve but were still unable to pierce AEK’s well-marshalled back line which had Murillo and Catala in outstanding form.
The home team did hit the post late on in the game when a lucky ricochet allowed substitute Sheridan clean through, but other than that APOEL were toothless up front.
Apollon continued their disastrous play-off form as they imploded to their fifth defeat, losing 3-1 to Anorthosis.
It could have been so different for Ton Caanen’s team who missed a number of chances to take the lead in the first half. Poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping by Anorthosis’ keeper kept the Limassol team at bay.
Even when Anorthosis took the lead early in the second half through Goncalves, Apollon found the strength to hit back and equalise through youngster Gouiler.
With 20 minutes still on the clock everybody expected Caanen’s outfit to finish the job but the home team stood firm and scored twice in the final few minutes through Makos and Makris to all but end Apollon’s chances of the championship.
Omonia, as expected, defeated Ermis 7-1 with top scorer Pote getting onto the scoresheet after a long time with a brace.
Three teams, AEK, Apollon and Omonia are all level on points, with Omonia travelling to Limassol on the final day knowing that only a win can lift them above Apollon. AEK are at home to Anorthosis.