Apoel defeated Dudelange 2-0 at the Josy Barthel Stadium, which means that, thanks to Qarabag’s defeat in Sevilla by the same score, they triumphantly booked their place into the knockout stages of the Europa League with a game to spare.
It was touch and go whether the game would be played but Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi gave the go-ahead to start the game just 15 minutes before the 10 o’clock kick-off, after the two sides had finished their warm-up as he decided that the relayed surface was playable.
Apoel got off to a great start when they took the lead in the 11th minute thanks to a penalty scored by Uros Matic penalty after Dudelange defender Tom Schnell had committed handball during a corner kick.
After taking the lead, the Cyprus champions took control of the game and could have doubled their lead six minutes later after Musa Al-Taamari skipped past three Dudelange defenders only to see his effort come off the crossbar.
However, after the 20-minute mark Dudelange suddenly sprung to life and started to venture forward menacingly with Apoel retreating in their final third of the field. Dudelange were unlucky not to equalize in the 34th minute but Dominik Stolz’s thunderbolt from well outside the area came off the post.
Against the run of play Apoel doubled their lead from yet another set piece. Matic turned provider this time as his well floated free-kick was headed past Dudelange’s goalkeeper Joubert by defender Giorgos Merkis.
Having established a two-goal lead Apoel set out in the second half to protect their lead and succeeded in doing so with relative ease.
Despite bossing possession, the Luxembourgers were unable to pierce through Apoel’s well drilled defence and were limited to long range speculative efforts.
In fact it was Apoel who created the only chance in the second half when Al-Taamari raced clear on goal, but his effort was beaten away by goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert.
Both teams finished the game with ten players. First off it was Apoel’s Praxitelis Vourous who was cautioned twice in quick succession with ten minutes still on the clock and then in added time Danel Sinani got his marching orders after his frustration got the better of him.
Sevilla are top the group with 15 points with Apoel second on seven, while Qarabag are three points adrift. Even if Apoel lose their last against Sevilla and the Azeris defeat Dudelange, the Cypriot team will still go through as they have a better head-to-head record against Qarabag.