AEK & Apollon reach Europa League playoffs, AEL eliminated
Two out of the three Cypriot teams competing in Europa League qualifying reached the playoffs, as AEK and Apollon eliminated Dinamo Minsk and Aberdeen, respectively, while AEL was knocked out by Austria Wien.
AEL Limassol hosted Austria Wien after escaping with a goalless draw from the first leg. Despite a good start from the hosts, the tide turned against them as the referee gave a penalty to the visitors and a red to Airosa. The referee’s controversial decision resulted in tension from the players and fans as the foul was clearly outside of AEL’s penalty area. The game was stopped for several minutes before Holtzhauser opened the scoring from the spot kick. AEL came into the second half with a fighting spirit and managed to equalize with Aldair to bring the scores level on the night. Knowing that they needed another goal, the pace of the game picked up as the hosts threw all of their efforts into the attack. Unfortunately, AEL did not manage to find the back of the net and a late goal from Pires formed the final 1-2 scoreline, ending AEL’s dreams for a place in the Europa League group stages.
AEK Larnaka traveled to Belarus to face Dinamo Minsk with a solid 2-0 scoreline from the first leg at the AEK Arena. AEK looked for an early goal to put things out of reach, however despite having total control of the game and wasting important chances, the teams went into the break goalless. Just two minutes into the second half, things got interesting as Soroka scored from the penalty spot to put Dinamo in front on the night and behind 2-1 on aggregate. The hosts pushed for a second, but AEK defended well and held their ground before Acoran managed to equalize in stoppage time to kill off any last hopes for the Belarusian side. AEK will now face Viktoria Plzen in the playoffs for a place in the group stage.
Apollon Limassol hosted Aberdeen after a 2-1 loss in Scotland. The home support created a fantastic atmosphere and helped their side open the scoring with Schembri after just 17 minutes of play. With the lead, Apollon controlled the game but were not able to threaten the Scottish defence again in the first half. Apollon looked to double their advantage early in the second half while Aberdeen balanced out the play and hoped to find an all-important away goal. However, Zelaya found the back of the net a few minutes before the end to double Apollon’s lead, giving the hosts a 3-2 lead on aggregate. Aberdeen went on full attack in the final minutes in hopes of scoring to send the game into overtime, but Apollon held them off and celebrated their place in the next round of qualifying. The Galazioi of Limassol will now travel to Denmark to face Midtjyland in the Europa League playoffs.