Cyprus Mail

APOEL reach Champions League playoff with dramatic injury-time treble (video and photo gallery)

An incredible finish at the GSP Stadium on Tuesday night saw APOEL score three goals in injury time against Rosenborg to book their place in the Champions League playoff round.

Trailing 2-1 from the first leg, APOEL finally found the breakthrough in the 92nd minute through Gianniotas, but still found time to add two more courtesy of Vander and De Vincenti, ensuring European group stage football for the 2016-17 campaign.

Efrem’s goal in the first leg earned him a place in the lineup, while coach Thomas Christiansen also made an attacking change in starting De Vincenti ahead of Artymatas. And it was the pair who combined for the game’s first massive chance. The Argentine threaded a pass through the Rosenborg defence but the Cypriot’s lob went well over the bar.

Despite being under the cosh, Rosenborg almost took the lead themselves, when Helland’s attempted cross hit the top of the crossbar.

Efrem came close again just before the break when he connected at full stretch to meet a cross to the far post, but was unable to direct it on target with the keeper out of position.

The intensity levels around the GSP were raised in the second half, as their Champions League hopes hung in the balance. Every opposition touch was whistled while each misplaced pass by the home side was met with groans.

De Vincenti was enjoying his free role behind the striker and was having a massive creative influence on the game. On 50 minutes, his pass, intended for Efrem, teed up Nektarios Alexandrou who unleashed a rasping strike from the corner of the penalty area which cannoned off the woodwork.

The tie was almost sealed when Rosenborg broke quickly and captain Jensen ghosted into the box unmarked to meet a low cross but his effort was saved by the outstretched leg of Waterman to keep APOEL hopes alive.

APOEL had the ball in the net with a sweet volley from Sotiriou, only for it to be ruled offside, which replays confirmed was indeed the case.

The visitors slowed the game down in any way they could in the final stages, frustrating APOEL into needless fouls as the clock ticked down.

After a dull second half, however, an incredible ten minutes of injury time would ensue. Vander’s low cross picked out Gianniotas at the far post who poked home what looked to be a certain winner

As Rosenborg threw everybody forward for a leveler, APOEL broke in numbers, and rather than heading for the corner flag, the home side went for the jugular as Vander smashed the ball into the roof of the net for 2-0.

And almost straight after kick-off, a mix-up in the Norwegian defence handed De Vincenti the chance to volley in from thirty yards with goal unguarded to send the home crowd into jubilation after an enduring night.

APOEL have now sealed European group stage football for the sixth time in eight seasons but will aim to reach the Champions League rather than fall into the Europa League with the playoff first leg taking place on either August 16 or 17.

Top from left to right: Soteriou, Carlao, Morais, Astiz, Vinicius, Waterman -Front row from left to right: Gianniotas, de Vincenti, Efraim, Milanov, Alexandrou (c)ore than 16.000 fans turned up to watch APOEL's crucial tie with RosenborgGianniotas slides in to give APOEL the lead in the 92nd minuteGianniotas' goal from an other angleVander blasts in APOEL's second goal of the night deep into added timeVander salutes the fans after scoringDe Vincenti celebrates after side-footing the ball into an empty netMilanov cannot hide his delightAPOEL coach Thomas Christiansen at the final whistleAPOEL president Prodromos Petrides embraces coach ChristiansenDespair for Jensen after failing to find the net in Rosenborg's only clear goal scoring opportunitySo near yet so far, Rosenborg coach Kåre Ingebrigtsen cannot believe how his team collapsed in added time


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