APOEL got off to an impressive start in their Champions League playoff tie, securing a 2-0 win over Slavia Prague on Tuesday night at the GSP Stadium.
In what has been a hectic beginning to the campaign which saw manager Mario Been sacked after just three games in charge and having lost to Apollon in the Super Cup less than a week prior to the playoff, confidence may not have been sky high among the Apoel faithful ahead of kick off.
But the mood inside the national stadium quickly changed just moments after kick off. With the first chance of the match, APOEL went 1-0 up as Igor de Camargo instinctively prodded home Lorenzo Ebecilio’s corner to hand the hosts a dream start.
APOEL nearly doubled their lead shortly after, with a looping cross from the right almost being diverted into the net by Slavia right-back Michal Frydrych.
However, they would not have to wait long for the second goal to arrive, and it was one to remember. Ebecilio laid the ball on to Stathis Aloneftis who audaciously lobbed the keeper Jan Laštůvka from the corner of the penalty area to send the GSP into raptures.
APOEL were almost quickly brought back down to earth when Josef Husbauer’s cross picked out Frydrych at the far post but the defender’s strike was denied by Boy Waterman.
The hosts’ resolve was put to the test in the second half, as Slavia relentlessly chased that all important away goal.
APOEL had Waterman to thank on the hour-mark as he first denied Jusbauer’s weak left-footed effort and managed to pick himself to save a better effort from the same player.
The Czech champions continued to pressure, and went as close as they had come all game on 77 minutes. A long ball hoisted over the top eventually fell to Muris Mešanović who hit the post with a powerful effort from the edge of the area.
Despite the second half onslaught, APOEL were able to escape without conceding, and are now firm favourites to reach the Champions League group stages going into next Wednesday’s second leg./IBNA