Cyprus Mail

AEK earn shock late victory in Moscow to reach Europa League playoff, Apollon bow out

AEK players celebrate

AEK earned a shock late winner in Moscow against Spartak to book their place in the Europa League playoff round, while Apollon were knocked out by Grasshopper in extra-time.

After the 1-1 draw in Larnaca last week, AEK looked keen to absorb pressure in the hope of squeezing out a chance on the counter.

Spartak full-back Kombarov created the first two good chances on the left with crosses to Yeshchenkoto and then Ze Luis, but neither were able to guide their efforts on goal.

For all of Spartak’s pressure, AEK never looked overly threatened, other than on when Zobnin’s effort from the edge of the box needed to be tipped wide by Ruben Mino.

Just when it looked as though the clock was against AEK, on 89 minutes, a defence-splitting cross-field pass found Trickovski unmarked who then slotted through the legs of Rebrov to give the Cypriots a historic and unthinkable qualification.

Apollon needed a win after conceding in the final moments of the first leg against Grasshopper, but it was the visitors who were asking the questions in the first half.

On 19 minutes, the Swiss side thought they had grabbed the opener, when an in-swinging corner was headed into the roof of the net, but the referee adjudged that the goalkeeper had been impeded.

As far as chances go, none could come more clearer than the one Grasshopper’s Andersen spurned – played in by a majestic Kallstrom disguised pass, the Dane smashed well over the bar from ten yards,.

Nobody was quite sure just how Apollon got to the break at 0-0, with Grasshopper hitting the crossbar twice in quick succession with powerful headers.

Moments after Angeli had a perfectly good goal ruled out, Apollon took the lead when substitute Papoulis’ corner was thumped home by Paolo Vinicius.

Despite missing that guilt-edged chance in the first half, Andersen made amends on 77 minutes after superbly bringing the ball down on the chest before slotting between the legs of Vale.

Apollon needed to score to stay alive and had returning captain Papoulis to thank with a fine finish on the turn to make it 2-1 on the night, 3-3 on aggregate, sending the game to extra-time.

Guie, after seeing a powerful header saved in the opening minutes of extra-time saved, made no mistake soon after when he put his side 3-1 ahead (4-3 overall) via the post.

However, there would be another twist as, minutes later, Caio turned Angeli before finishing well to give the Swiss ahead on away goals. Gjorgjev confirmed Apollon’s exit in the last minute, making it 3-3 (4-5 aggregate).

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