Cyprus Mail

Omonia crash out despite victory, but AEK march on in Europa League

Omonia players looking dejected

Despite beating Beitar Jerusalem 3-2 on Thursday night, Omonia were knocked out of the Europa League on the away goals rule as their hopes of reaching the group stages of a continental competition were put off for at least another year.

It was a routine night for AEK however, who progressed to the third round of the Europa League with a 2-0 win (5-2 aggregate) over Cliftonville, and Cyprus will continue to have two teams in the competition as cup winners Apollon enter the next stage.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, Omonia could have done with an early goal, and they so nearly had the dream start, but Nascimento’s powerful header cannoned off the crossbar in the second minute.

Instead, Atzili’s gave the away side the lead on 17 minutes, meaning that the Cypriots would have to score three without further reply to progress.

Omonia pulled one back through Agaiev who fired into the net at the near post, but Beitar reestablished their cushion when Nascimento clumsily brought down Beitar striker Schechter in the box for a clear penalty, from which Atzili made no mistake to make it 1-2.

It looked to be a killer blow, but a minute later, Omonia drew level once again with a penalty of their own given for handball, which Sheridan hit straight down the middle of the goal for 2-2.

One would have expected an all-guns blazing approach in the second half, but there was very little fire power from Omonia on display.

With another European exit looming large, Roushias’ powerful volley to make it 3-2 offered renewed optimism of an epic comeback with ten minutes left. Yet it was not to be for the Nicosians, as their European hopes were brought to a premature end.

AEK’s 2-3 win over Cliftonville in the first leg meant that they simply had to avoid defeat at the Antonis Papadopoulos. Imanol Idiakez, confident in his squad’s strength, rested some key players including Andre Alves and Ilias Charalambous.

The tie became even more comfortable when Cliftonville were reduced to ten men after eleven minutes, while the tie was well and truly put to bed on the stroke of half time when Vladimir Boljevic scored for AEK to make it 1-0 and 4-2 on aggregate. Joan Tomas made it 2-0 shortly after the restart, a score which remained until the end.

AEK now face a very tough opponent in Russian side Spartak Moscow in the third qualifying round, while Apollon take on Grasshopper of Switzerland.

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