APOEL fall short at home to Qarabag
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND (LEG 1)
APOEL fell 1:2 at home to Qarabag in Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League third qualifying round action.
APOEL lost 1:2 at home to Qarabaq in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. Two second-half goals from Mahir Emreli and Magaye Gueye gave the Azerbaijani champions an important win. A stoppage time goal from Giorgos Merkis sparked some hope for APOEL ahead of next Tuesday’s second leg fixture on the road in Azerbaijan.
Qarabag sent an early message to APOEL in the seventh minute as a mistake from Uros Matic gave a chance to Zoubir to open the scoring, but Vid Belec denied an early goal. Eleven minutes later, Zoubir came calling again, this time when he bypassed APOEL’s right flank and sent a ball for Maksim Medvedev, but Nicholas Ioannou bravely managed to clear the effort from danger.
APOEL touched the goal in the 23rd minute as Tomas De Vincenti sent the ball in and Rahil Mammadov’s headed pass to his goalkeeper was misjudged by Vagner da Silva, however the ball went just past the post. APOEL kept up the pressure and four minutes later, Musa Al-Taamari forced Vagner to a big save. Shortly after, a strong shot from Savvas Gentsoglou almost surprised Vagner, but the Brazilian punched it away. Despite APOEL’s pressure, Qarabaq’s defending denied any further chances for the hosts and both teams went into half-time goalless.
Five minutes into the second half, APOEL came close to opening the score when De Vincenti took the free-kick, forcing Vagner to a big save as the ball headed for the top-right corner.
Qarabag, however, struck soon after in the 53rd minute. Emreli went on the counter from the right side and successfully beat Belec to give his team the lead.
Qarabag took advantage of the momentum and managed to punish APOEL again in the 70th minute as Abdellah Zoubir dribbled past the Cypriot defense and gave a perfect assist to Gueye, who scored in front of an open net.
A minute later, APOEL missed a big double chance to get back into the game. Andrija Pavlovic took the header from De Vincenti’s free kick but it was stopped by the post and Merkis’ rebounded scissors kick effort went just over the crossbar.
Despite APOEL dominating play and looking for a much needed goal, Qarabag came close to score a third marker in the 87th minute. A wrong ball from Ioannou sent the Azerbaijanis on the counter, but Merkis blocked the ball before it reached Gueye, who was once again in front of an open net.
APOEL went full attack in second-half stoppage time knowing that only a goal could give them hope for a comeback in the second leg. Dragan Mihajlovic sent an alarming rocket forcing Vagner to another big save. Moments later, Vagner was there again to clear a header from his own Ailton Ferreira which resulted in a corner to APOEL in the game’s final moments.
De Vincenti took the effort and sent the ball perfectly to Merkis, who finally beat Vagner with a decisive header just before the final whistle.
APOEL (Paolo Tramezzani): Vid Belec (GK), Nicholas Ioannou, Giorgos Merkis, Praxitelis Vouros, Savvas Gentsoglou (Linus Hallenius), Antonio Jakolic (Andre Vidigal), Dragan Mihajlovic, Uros Matic (Alef dos Santos), Tomas De Vincenti (C), Musa Al-Taamari, Andrija Pavlovic
Qarabag (Gurban Gurbanov): Vagner da Silva (GK), Ailton Ferreira, Rahil Mammadov, Maksim Medvedev, Simeon Slavchev, Michel Madera, Jaime Romero (Araz Abdullayev), Mahir Emreli (Magaye Gueye), Rashad Sadygov (C), Abdellah Zoubir, Richard Almeida (Gara Garayev)