By Andreas Vou
APOEL clinched their 21st Cyprus Cup and their second in successive seasons with a convincing 4-2 victory over AEL on Wednesday but the game was marred by fan violence midway through the second half.
While there was a lot to be admired about the action on the pitch, only the opposite could be said about what took place in the stands as objects were launched onto the playing surface and at the APOEL dugout by AEL supporters just after the Nicosia side’s fourth goal, leading to a lengthy delay.
League leaders APOEL were the favourites to lift the trophy going into the game against an AEL side who had not won since the first week of March. However, it was the team from Limassol who started the brighter of the two and took the lead after just 11 minutes.
A free-kick from Luciano Bebe found an unmarked Maic Sema who headed the ball past veteran APOEL goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis, who was deputising for the injured Urko Pardo.
The goal seemed to give APOEL the wake-up call they needed. Just as he did after AEK Larnaca took an early lead on Saturday, Tomas De Vincenti brought the Cup holders level with a free-kick which looked to be intended as a cross, but AEL’s Karim Fegrouche misjudged the flight of the ball as it looped over his head and into the goal.
AEL came close to regaining the lead before the break when Sema broke clear of the defence but his left-foot strike was diverted onto the post by Chiotis, and the Swede could only find the side-netting with the rebound.
AEL would be left to rue their missed opportunities as, just three minutes later, APOEL took the lead. Stathis Aloneftis’ cross was only half dealt with by the AEL defence and Giorgos Efrem was on hand to stab the ball home from close range.
Just as he ended the first-half, Efrem started the second as the Cypriot forward doubled his personal tally and extended APOEL’s lead to 3-1 after another error from Fegrouch.
The goalkeeper rushed out of his area but was beaten to the ball by De Vincenti who played it wide to Efrem, who had the simple task of passing the ball into an empty net.
The Cup was wrapped up and sealed for APOEL when John Arne Riise, as he did so often in his time at Liverpool, hit a thunderous left-footed free-kick, off the post and into the net.
As APOEL fans rejoiced, a large section of AEL supporters vented their discontent by throwing flares and rocks onto the field which led to a near forty-five minute delay.
Czech referee Pavel Kralovec halted play and guided both sets of players and staff back to the changing rooms until the violence subsided. The game resumed with the majority of AEL fans having left the stadium and those remaining fighting police officers.
The Cyprus News Agency reported that fires were lit in the streets outside the stadium and the surrounding area.
AEL claimed a late second through Valentinos Sielis but their nightmare sequence in Cup finals continues; their latest heartbreak makes it their sixth consecutive final where they ended up as runners-up.
For APOEL, they extend their record Cup haul to 21 and remain on course to repeat last year’s double if they earn just a point in their final game of the season this coming Sunday against Ermis.