Apoel face a titanic challenge to remain in the Europa League after they were soundly beaten 3-0 at GSP Stadium in Nicosia by Swiss team Basel.
It was only the second game in charge for new manager Marinos Ouzounides, but his European journey seems to be already over, as Apoel played one of the worst games of their season so far.
The Cypriot champions however, started the match with confidence, oragnised at the back and with Musa Al-Taamari particularly inspired on the right flank.
The Jordanian came close to scoring a wonder goal in the 9th minute when he tried to chip the goalkeeper from the halfway line, but the ball went wide.
Nevertheless, after a good start for Ouzounides’ men, Basel went ahead in the 16th minute, as Raoul Petretta latched onto a long ball forward from Eray Comert and drilled it past Apoel’s goalkeeper Vid Belec.
The goal hit Apoel hard and boosted the Swiss team’s morale. Despite Uros Matic’s good effort in the 25th minute with the ball going wide, Basel came close to doubling their lead one minute after with a header attempted by right back Silvan Widmer, this time saved by Belec.
The Slovenian goalkeeper saved the result once again in the 40th minute with a superb save on Arthur Cabral’s shot from a good position after he broke free inside the Apoel box.
Basel started the second half with same tempo kept throughout most of the first 45 minutes.
Valentine Stocker eventually managed to double his team’s advantage in the 53rd minute after a quick counter attack with Fabian Frei serving the Swiss forward who netted the ball past Belec for the 2-0.
Marcel Koller’s men almost closed the game shortly after Cabral turned Giorgos Merkis inside the box but his header came back off the crossbar.
However, just when Apoel was starting to show signs of life, Basel tripled their lead with Cabral, who fired low beyond Belec from outside the box after yet another counter attack initiated by Petretta.
To add insult to injury, Ioannou had to be replaced by Christos Wheeler in the 78th minute after sustaining a thigh injury.
The return leg of the Europa League round of 32 will take place on February 27.