An inspired second-half display against Rosenborg leaves APOEL with a decent chance of reaching the Champions League playoff round, despite a 2-1 defeat in Norway on Wednesday night.
The Nicosia club’s future in Europe looked in serious doubt at the break but Giorgos Efrem’s volley provides plenty of hope for the second leg in Nicosia next week.
The opening 20 minutes were scrappy, with APOEL committing numerous fouls which served their purpose as they looked to frustrate and slow down their opponents.
But one quick free-kick caught the APOEL rearguard unaware, as a low cross from the left found Christian Gytkjaer all alone in the six-yard box, and he had the simple task of slotting it home for the opener.
Just a minute later, the hosts nearly doubled their lead as a through pass split the APOEL defence and set Helland clear only for the outstretched toe of Boy Waterman to deny a second.
Rosenborg piled on the pressure as Yann-Erik de Lanlay’s effort was parried out to the feet of Mike Jensen who then smashed the ball towards goal only for Carlao to clear off the line.
APOEL looked to have weathered the storm, but on the stroke of half-time, Midtsjoe slithered past two before teeing up Skjelvik who then lashed the ball into the roof of the net with the last kick of the opening period.
Thomas Christiansen made two attacking changes either side of the hour mark, with Andrea Orlandi and Efrem coming on for Kostakis Artyamatas and Vander, which saw APOEL finally manage to get higher up the pitch.
APOEL chances were few and far between but it only took one to have a massive impact on the game, and possibly the tie.
Coming straight into the line-up after re-signing for the club on loan, Giannis Gianniotas took on his full-back before crossing into the box which, via a failed clearance, looped into the path of Efrem. The Cypriot forward connected sweetly on the volley and the ball flew under the keeper to give APOEL a vital away goal.
It was APOEL who looked the likelier of the two to get the next goal, and the leveller so nearly came in the 90th minute as Efrem unselfishly squared the ball to De Camargo, but the debutant could not get his toe on the end of it with the goal gaping.
Nevertheless, the 2-1 scoreline is a positive one for the Cypriots, especially after looking dead and buried in the first half.
Results from the Champions League Qualifying Round 3 first leg matches on Wednesday:
FC Astra (Romania) – FC Copenhagen (Denmark) 1-1
Rosenborg Trondheim (Norway) – APOEL Nicosia (Cyprus) 2-1
FC Astana (Kazakhstan) – Celtic (Scotland) 1-1
Tuesday, July 26, first leg:
Ajax Amsterdam (Netherlands) – PAOK Salonika (Greece) 1-1
Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) – Dynamo Tbilisi (Georgia) 2-0
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine) – Young Boys (Switzerland) 2-0
Rostov (Russia) – Anderlecht (Belgium) 2-2
Partizani (Albania) – Salzburg (Austria) 0-1
Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) – Qarabag Agdam (Azerbaijan) 0-0
BATE Borisov (Belarus) – Dundalk (Ireland) 1-0
Ludogorets (Bulgaria) – Red Star Belgrade (Serbia) 2-2
Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) – Steaua Bucharest (Romania) 1-1