Apoel suffered a rather unexpected but deserved 4-3 Europa League loss to Dudelange in an action-packed game in Nicosia with the Luxembourgians hitting a late winner.
Apoel’s German coach Thomas Doll raised a few eyebrows with his starting line-up by dropping his Jordanian ace Mousa al Taamari and replacing him with Antonio Jacolis. He also deserted his usual 4-3-3 formation by deploying three at the back and packing his midfield with five.
His plan though proved disastrous. His team played as if they had never played together before. Apoel hardly managed a shot on goal in the opening 45 minutes and the only surprise was that Dudelange went into the break just one goal to the good.
Dudelange could have taken the lead as early as the 6th minute but Danel Sinani dragged his shot wide.
Just past the half hour Dudelange striker Mendy was guilty of a horrible miss with the goal at his mercy but in the 37th minute the Luxembourgers took the lead as a simple forward pass allowed Sinani to race clear on goal and calmly slot his shot past advancing Apoel goalkeeper Belec.
This was perhaps Apoel’s worst ever performance in the opening half of any European game in living memory with players booed off the pitch by their own fans at the break.
After the interval Doll realised his mistake and reverted to a back four and introduced Joazinhio at the back and Al Taamari up front.
However an error by Ioannou gave the chance to Dudelange to double the score just minutes after the restart through Antoine Bernier and all seemed lost for the home side.
But three goals in the space of four minutes for Apoel turned the game on its head.
First Pavlovic headed past Joubert in the 54th minute with a de Vincenti penalty levelling the score two minutes later. Pavlovic got his second of the game in the 58th minute tapping into an empty net after Joubert could only parry de Vincenti’s shot.
Dudelange were shell-shocked and Apoel piled on the pressure in search of a fourth goal. Joubert first saved from Gentzoglou and then stopped Pavlovic’s goal-bound effort with his feet.
Just when Apoel thought they cruising to a win Dudelange regrouped and managed to equalise when Apoel’s defence were caught ball-watching and Stolz netted in the 72nd minute.
From that moment on it was anybody’s game with both teams throwing players forward in search of the win.
Dudelange proved more lethal and Sinani got his second of the game and Dudelange’s fourth in the 81st minute to the dismay of the home fans.