APOEL in dreamland after reaching quarters

Reuters, Thursday 8 Mar 2012

APOEL Nicosia beat Olympique Lyon 4-3 on penalties on Wednesday to reach the Champions League quarter-finals and become the first Cypriot team to make the last eight of any European competition

Ailton, left, of Apoel Nicosia fights for the ball with Jimmy Briand of Lyon during their Champions League last sixteen second leg soccer match at GSP stadium in Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, March 7, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos had the key spot-kicks saved by Dionisios Chiotis, who was also unlucky that Lisandro Lopez’s penalty went in off his back, to prompt jubilant scenes in Nicosia.

Gustavo Manduca, sent off in extra time for a second booking, had earlier netted at the far post on nine minutes after Constantinos Charalambides had slid in a cross as hosts APOEL levelled the aggregate scores at 1-1 after losing the first leg 1-0.

Lyon, who came into the game on the back of poor domestic form, fielded a defensive lineup with first-leg scorer Lacazette and top scorer Bafetimbi Gomis starting on the bench.

Manduca’s goal forced under pressure Lyon coach Remi Garde to urge his side forward and Ederson’s overhit free kick almost sneaked in before his diving header bounced wide but that was as close as the French side came.

APOEL, who upset the odds by finishing top of their Champions League group but lie third domestically, had set up with a more attacking side but gradually began to sit back after the early advantage with their dogged defence again on show.

The home side still had other chances with Charalambides blasting wide from a difficult angle, Esteban Solari’s shot being saved by Hugo Lloris and Lyon’s Aly Cissokho flicking a free kick onto his own bar.

Lyon shaded extra time with Gomis and Lacazette on the field but APOEL also got forward and wasted decent opportunities.

The buildup to the match was far from smooth with vandals trying to dig up the pitch on Tuesday, the officials having a flat tyre en route to the game and rain welcoming the players before kick off.

An electric atmosphere inside the GSP Stadium made up for the weather, however, with the second highest APOEL crowd ever of nearly 23,000 packing the stands and hailing the monumental achievement of a team of journeymen from around the world.

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter: @AO_Sports).


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