APOEL reclaim top spot with big comeback win over Apollon
CYPRIOT 1st DIVISION - CHAMPIONSHIP PLAYOFFS (MATCHDAY 3)
|Apollon Limassol||1 - 3||APOEL|
||Natel (P) 65'
The champions heart spoke in the big matchday three derby of the Cyprus First Division playoffs as APOEL took down Apollon 1:3 on the road to reclaim top spot in the standings.
Apollon, who held top spot ahead of Sunday’s fixture, hosted defending champions and second placed APOEL at the Tsireio Stadium in Limassol in the weekend’s highlight fixture in Cyprus.
Apollon stepped in the game with more confidence and in the 15th minute, created their first chance as a shot from Andre Schembri was blocked by Caju before it threatened Rafael Romo. Two minutes later, Schembri was brought down just inches from APOEL’s penalty area by Nikolas Ioannou and from the ensuing free kick, Giorgos Vasileiou’s effort was stopped by Romo. Apollon kept control of the game until halftime, but they were unable to turn their possession into scoring opportunities while APOEL, on the other hand, failed to create any efforts on the attack.
The second half was a completely different story than the first. Just three minutes into the half, Emilio Zelaya opened the scoring for the hosts. The Argentinian received the ball from Fotis Papoulis, did well to controlled it between Giorgos Merkis and Carlao, and beat Romo with a nice effort. In the 62nd minute, Apollon came close to doubling their lead with Papoulis, who marched into APOEL’s penalty area, however his heavy touch gave Romo the ability to clear the ball and scuff out the chance.
APOEL leveled things up with their first real chance of the game in the 63rd minute. Musa Al-Taamari, in one of his speedy solo efforts, slalomed between four Apollon players and he was brought down by Valentine Roberge just inside Apollon’s penalty area. Leo Natel took the penalty kick and beat Bruno Vale for the equalizer.
Four minutes later, APOEL struck again to shock the hosts. From an Apollon corner kick, APOEL gained possession and Natel sent Al-Taamari on the counter. The Jordanian raced from the midfield, cleared Vasileiou, and beat Vale to quickly turn things around in favor of the defending champions.
In the 78th minute, Al-Taamari was in the middle of things once again as he dribbled past Vale in a fast-paced attack and passed to Lucas Souza, who put the icing on the cake with a beautiful strike. APOEL controlled the game and despite losing Ioannou in the 90th minute to a second yellow card offense, they comfortably held onto their 1:3 lead through the final whistle.
APOEL recorded their third victory from three matches over Apollon and jumped one point ahead of their rivals into first place of the playoff standings. Seven games remain in the playoffs and it will be a fight to the end for this year’s league title.
HIGHLIGHTS: APOLLON LIMASSOL - APOEL