Tomas de Vincenti scored the decisive penalty to send Apoel through to the playoffs of the Europa League in a nailbiting penalty shootout against Bosnian club Zrinjski Mostar at the GSP stadium in Nicosia on Thursday night.
The hero of the night though was Apoel’s rookie goalkeeper, Silva who saved two penalties and give his side a 4-2 win in the shootout. The game finished 2-2 after 120 minutes of football.
The opening forty five minutes belonged entirely to Apoel who could have taken the lead as early as the 3rd minute but Nuhiu, slightly off balance, could not direct his header past goalkeeper Brkic.
However it was Zrinjski who opened the score in their first attack of the game in the 11th minute after Jakovlievic’s cross was headed past Apoel’s Silva by Ivancic.
It took Apoel just three minutes to get back on level terms through Antzily who made no mistake from 10 metres out to beat Brkic after a fine run and cut back by Geraldes.
Goalscorer turned provider as Antzily’s corner was headed past Brkic from an almost impossible angle by the towering Nuhiu in the 26th minute to give the Nicosia team a deserved lead.
In the final 15 minutes of the half the game fizzled out with Apoel content to control play but with the visitors unable to threaten again Silva’s goal.
The second half started with Zrinjski suddenly coming to life forcing Apoel back into their own half.
Twice Zrinjski tried with long range efforts to threaten Silva’s goal but first the goalkeeper saved rather peculiarly with his legs while the second shot went well wide.
At their third attempt on goal the visitors managed to equalize through Bilbija who was left totally unmarked in the penalty box and cooly slotted the ball past Silva in 69th minute.
The visitors continued to press and Silva had to be alert to clear the ball with Jakovlievic ready to pounce.
All Apoel had to show in the second half was a tame effort by Anuar that was comfortably saved by Brkic.
The first part of extra time was a drab affair with both sides tiring but also unwilling to commit players forward in search of the winner.
In the second part of extra time Bekic saw his 30 metre thunderbolt go just wide of Silva’s post while Apoel’s stirker Ben Sahar should have done much better heading straight at the keeper from a few metres out.