One win, a draw and a defeat was the outcome of Cyprus’ European hopefuls on Thursday night, and given the results, all three – AEK, Apoel and Apollon – stand a good chance of making it to the Europa League group stage.
Of the three it was AEK who arguably came away with the best result as they drew 1-1 with AS Trenčín in Slovakia.
AEK though must be kicking themselves as they should have secured qualification from the first leg as they were much the better side creating and missing a number of chances especially in the opening half.
Jorge Larena, the creator of AEK’s equalising goal, said that they were pleased with the performance and the result even though they missed a number of opportunities to win the game and concluded “in front of our fans we should win and qualify for the group stage.”
AS Trenčín took the lead against the run of play through Sleegers in the 55th minute but AEK replied five minutes later through Acoran.
Elsewhere, Apoel had to wait until the 79th minute to break the deadlock against Astana in an evenly contested match.
Astana just about edged the opening half switching from defence to attack with quick and incisive passing. However the best chances fell to Apoel with Zahid, Tamari and Sallay going close.
Young Brazilian defender Kazu was the hero for the champions as he was the first to react after Efraim’s delicate chip from the edge of the area came off the crossbar.
This was the Brazilian’s third European goal this season and it made up for a torrid first half where he was given the runaround by Astana’s nippy wingers.
After the game Apoel manager Bruno Baltazar said that he was happy with the win but stressed that it would be suicidal if Apoel go to Kazakhstan and just try to defend their one-goal advantage.
“We shall try to score and win the second leg as well, there is no other way,” Baltazar concluded.
In a topsy-turvy game where the lead changed three times, Apollon finally succumbed to the pressure of FC Basel and lost 3-2.
The Swiss team were the better team over the 90 minutes and more than deserved the win but Apollon manager Avgousti must be furious with his team’s sloppy defending especially after they had taken the lead early in the second half.
The Swiss had taken the lead early in the game through Wolfswinkel but two goals in a four-minute spell early in the second half through Maglica and Papoulis gave the Limassol side the lead.
Two goals though from set pieces, a second by Wolfswinkel in the 69th minute, and a Cumart strike six minutes from the end gave the Swiss a slender yet important lead that Apollon will be asked to overturn next Thursday at the GSP stadium if they are to progress to the group stage.