The eagerly awaited top of the table clash between AEK and Apoel at the Arena Stadium in Larnaca ended in a 1-1 draw, in a poor and scrappy game that football enthusiasts will want to forget quickly.
These were the first points dropped by AEK so far this season after eight straight wins, but the result still keeps them two points ahead of Apoel and four ahead of third-placed AEL, who missed a golden opportunity to move nearer the top as they were held to a home draw by lowly AEZ Zakakiou.
It was obvious from the first whistle at the Arena Stadium that both sides were more intent on keeping a clean sheet rather than scoring, with most of the play congested in the middle of the park. The two keepers were left with relatively quiet afternoons.
Both the goals had a stroke of good fortune with Apoel drawing first blood on the hour mark after Vinicius took advantage of a lucky bounce to slot the ball into an empty net.
Six minutes later AEK were level after Moisov’s back-post header hit Andre Alves before finding the net.
In the final 20 minutes, and with the introduction of Stathis Aloneftis, Apoel took charge of play and had two good opportunities to win the game, but both Sotiriou and Bertolio failed to find the target.
Both sides had a penalty claim turned down by referee Mashias in the first half with the visitor’s shouts appearing to be more justified as Moisov’s arm blocked Efraim’s goal-bound header just before it crossed the line.
The game was marred by a serious injury to AEK midfielder Tomas, something that did not go unmentioned during the post-game press conference.
“We are all devastated by what happened to Tomas,” said a clearly-shaken Imanol Idiakez, while Apoel Thomas Christiansen wished him a speedy recovery.
AEL missed a great opportunity to ‘catch’ Apoel in second place and move to within two points of the top as they failed to beat AEZ.
AEZ, who were playing with ten men for the last half hour following the sending off of Ozias, got a richly deserved point with practically the last kick of the game, when Sassy beat AEL keeper Romo from just inside the penalty box.
AEL had taken the lead in the 68th minute when Soouza’s cross was diverted into his own net by Tzimonzi.
Omonia had few problems against Aris with the usual suspects, Cilian Sheridan and Matt Derbyshire getting on the scoresheet yet again.
After a number of wasted chances Omonia got the lead they deserved when an unchallenged Sheridan headed into the net in the 31st minute.
Derbyshire got the other two, taking his tally to eight and topping the scorers’ chart, while Aris’ Shourtai had reduced the deficit early in the second half.
Ethnikos Achnas defeated Karmiotissa by 4-2 with Katcharava grabbing a hat-trick, a win that lifted them to 8th place, while Apollon left it very late against Doxa with Paolo Vinicius giving the points to the Limassol team thanks to a header in the last minute of the game.
Nea Salamina produced one of their best displays of the season, overcoming Ermis Aradippou 2-1.
In Monday’s evening game that completed Round 9 of the championship, Anorthosis came from behind to defeat Anagenni Dheryneias 2-1 at the Tasos Markou stadium.
The home side took the lead in the seventh minute through Wesslem, but Pele equalised for Anorthosis in the 39th minute.
The visitors piled on the pressure in the second half and were rewarded when Da Silva Goncalves volleyed past Dheryneia keeper Mastrou nine minutes from the end.
Anorthosis are now level on 11 points with Karmiotissa in eighth place, while Anagennisi remain rooted at the foot of the table with just one point.
Video highlights from the weekend’s games (courtesy of the Cyprus Football Association):