While AEK were unable to overturn their 3-1 deficit against Viktoria Plzen, Apollon managed to book their place in the Europa League group stages with a heroic 1-1 draw away at FC Midtjylland.
First up on the night were AEK, who started very brightly in Larnaca against a tough Plzen side as they went in pursuit of a morale-boosting early goal.
Florian Taulemesse’s clever overhead pass looped over the defence to find Joan Tomas who then intended to pick out Ivan Trickovski but it was just out of the reach of the winger who leapt at full stretch.
Veteran defender David Catala then leapt highest of all from a corner and his header needed to be tipped wide by Ales Hruska in the Plzen goal.
Florian, who has been golden for AEK all throughout qualifying, wriggled away from his man and swung a left foot towards goal but the keeper spread himself well to send the ball out for a corner.
AEK’s insistence carried on in the second half but the hosts were visibly tired after giving so much early on in the game.
Time ticked on and with ten minutes left on the clock it was evident that it was not going to be their night as Hector Hemel hit a sweet strike from all of 30 yards which struck the inside of the post and out.
It was a good performance and a commendable European campaign but the dream of reaching the groups will have to wait for at least one more season.
It was a different proposition for Apollon who went to Denmark with a 3-2 lead from last week’s first leg to protect
Though that quickly disappeared when Alexander Sorloth embarked on a solo run before setting up Rilwan Hassan who calmly slotted into the corner to turn the tie on its head.
Jonas Borring was then picked out with a smartly-worked corner routine and his bullet header was flying towards goal, but Bruno Vale was equal to it with an excellent save.
Midtjylland went from unlucky to lucky within seconds as they first had a strong penalty shout turned down, but Sorloth was then very fortunate to just see yellow for an angry push on Esteban Sachetti.
Apollon then also had a strong penalty shout turned down as Tim Sparv looked to have handled in the box. But that was quickly forgotten as the Cypriots got the equaliser through Andre Schembri. The striker looked to have been fouled as he struck the ball but his effort eventually squirmed into the net. It was no picture book goal but it did not matter at all for Apollon as they finally got back in control of the tie.
The goal rattled the hosts who seemed to lose all composure from then onwards. Apollon had the chance to seal it late on from the penalty spot but Alex Da Silva’s kick was saved.
It almost came at a huge cost as a quick counter-attack ended with Borring having a clear site on goal, only for his strike to be heroically blocked as it looked destined for the net.
A nervy ending ensued but Apollon hung on to seal their place in the Europa League groups for the third time in their history.
Results from the Uefa Europa League play-offs second leg matches on Thursday:
AEK (Greece) – Club Bruges (Belgium) 3-0 (halftime: 2-0)
First leg: Club Bruges – AEK 0-0. AEK win 3-0 on aggregate.
Midtjylland (Denmark) – Apollon Limassol (Cyprus) 1-1 (halftime: 1-0)
First leg: Apollon Limassol – Midtjylland 3-2. Apollon Limassol win 4-3 on aggregate.
Skenderbeu (Albania) – Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) 0-0 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: Dinamo Zagreb – Skenderbeu 1-1. Skenderbeu win on away goals after 1-1 on aggregate.
Videoton FC (Hungary) – Partizan Belgrade (Serbia) 0-4 (halftime: 0-3)
First leg: Partizan Belgrade – Videoton FC 0-0. Partizan Belgrade win 4-0 on aggregate.
Fenerbahce (Turkey) – FK Vardar (Macedonia) 1-2 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: FK Vardar – Fenerbahce 2-0. FK Vardar win 4-1 on aggregate.
Suduva Marijampole (Lithuania) – Ludogorets (Bulgaria) 0-0 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: Ludogorets – Suduva Marijampole 2-0. Ludogorets win 2-0 on aggregate.
FC Oleksandriya (Ukraine) – BATE Borisov (Belarus) 1-2 (halftime: 1-0)
First leg: BATE Borisov – FC Oleksandriya 1-1. BATE Borisov win 3-2 on aggregate.
Zenit St Petersburg (Russia) – Utrecht (Netherlands) 2-0 (halftime: 1-0, 90 mins: 1-0) AET
First leg: Utrecht – Zenit St Petersburg 1-0. Zenit St Petersburg win 2-1 on aggregate.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel) – SCR Altach (Austria) 2-2 (halftime: 1-1)
First leg: SCR Altach – Maccabi Tel Aviv 0-1. Maccabi Tel Aviv win 3-2 on aggregate.
Ostersunds FK (Sweden) – PAOK Salonika (Greece) 2-0 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: PAOK Salonika – Ostersunds FK 3-1. Ostersunds FK win on away goals after 3-3 on aggregate.
Salzburg (Austria) – FC Viitorul Constanta (Romania) 4-0 (halftime: 2-0)
First leg: FC Viitorul Constanta – Salzburg 1-3. Salzburg win 7-1 on aggregate.
Sheriff Tiraspol (Moldova) – Legia Warsaw (Poland) 0-0 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: Legia Warsaw – Sheriff Tiraspol 1-1. Sheriff Tiraspol win on away goals after 1-1 on aggregate.
Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine) – Maritimo (Portugal) 3-1 (halftime: 2-0)
First leg: Maritimo – Dynamo Kiev 0-0. Dynamo Kiev win 3-1 on aggregate.
AEK Larnaca (Cyprus) – Viktoria Plzen (Czech Republic) 0-0 (halftime: 0-0)
First leg: Viktoria Plzen – AEK Larnaca 3-1. Viktoria Plzen win 3-1 on aggregate.