NICOSIA – APOEL boss Ivan Jovanovic yesterday described his side’s disappointing exit from the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup at the hands of AEL as “the most difficult time” he has endured at the club.
Elsewhere, Anorthosis needed extra time to see off Alki at the GSZ Stadium and move into the next round while Apollon Limassol have the upper hand after picking up a 1-0 victory in their first leg tie away to Nea Salamina.
APOEL appeared to be sailing towards a place in the quarterfinals of the competition after Aldo Adorno scored after just two minutes to put his side ahead and 3-0 ahead on aggregate after the Nicosia club’s comfortable 2-0 win in the first leg.
But a resurgent AEL stormed back, first through Vouho’s spot kick ten minutes later before Monteiro – who had earlier replaced the injured Edmar – put AEL 2-1 ahead just before halftime.
APOEL’s misery was complete when Vouho struck again on 64 minutes to put his side 3-1 up and ahead on the away goal rule.
Jorge Costa’s side held on for the remainder of the game despite playing the final 20 minutes with ten men after Vouho picked up a second booking.
The home fans didn’t hide their frustration at the final whistle jeering their players and Jovanovic while the club’s football supporters later issued an announcement calling on chairman Fivos Erotokritou and his board to step down.
“It’s a difficult time right now and probably the most difficult in all the time that I have been here”, said Jovanovic after the game whose side are currently six points adrift of leaders Anorthosis in the league title and who picked up their fourth defeat this season in all competitions. “We understand the disappointment and frustration of the fans. I have to take responsibility for the defeat.”
It is not the first time that APOEL have suffered a shock defeat at home this season. The first occasion was in the playoffs of the Europa League when, after drawing Neftchi Baku 1-1 away, were beaten 3-1 on a disappointing night to exit Europe – barely months after they had stunned the world to reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Others defeats this season include home losses against Anorthosis and AEK while APOEL were also lucky to escape defeats in both the big Nicosia derbies against Omonia.
“It’s quite unbelievable how we keep losing all our crucial games at home. I would need lots of time to sit here analysing what when wrong but we don’t have time for that. The history of this club forces us to quickly regroup and focus primarily on our only target which is the league title. The players tried hard and I don’t have any complaints with their effort.”
Media reports yesterday suggested that the defeat could spell the end of Jovanovic’s tenure at the club.
Meanwhile the mood was somewhat different in the AEL camp with the title holders giving their fans something more to cheer about after their side reached the group stages of the Europa League this season.
“After the first game, I had said that only the first half had finished”, said AEL chairman Andreas Sophocleous. “We believed as did the coach, the players and the fans who came to the GSP. Our players showed what real heroes they were tonight.”
Elsewhere, Anorthosis gave themselves a mountain climb in their Cup tie against Alki. After being held to a 1-1 draw in their first leg at home, Barak Yitzhaki headered past his own keeper to put Alki in front but the Israeli made amends before halftime equalising with a header at the other end.
Both sides failed to make a breakthrough during the 90 minutes but veteran substitute Yiannis Okkas was once again the hero for the league leaders after scoring in the first period of extra time to give his side the victory.
Apollon, meanwhile, will have a 1-0 lead to defend at home next week against Nea Salamina after an early Charalambos Kyriakou strike separated the two sides in the first leg at the Ammochostos Stadium in Larnaca.