MARSEILLE - AEL’s inexperience at top level football in Europe was exposed on Thursday night after Pambos Christodoulou’s side were thumped 5-1 by Group C rivals Marseille at the Stade Velodrome.
The 5-1 scoreline was “harsh” according to suspended coach Christodoulou but the Limassol club was blatantly at fault for the opening three goals they conceded in which Rod Fanni, Michel Lucas Mendes and Loic Remy were all allowed free headers from set-pieces.
Substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac and a Remy second rubbed salt on AEL’s wounds as they added further goals to complete the rout late on.
But it was AEL who fashioned the best chances in the first half and the Cypriots took a surprised lead when Marseille failed to deal with Monteiro's corner and Edwin Ouon was on hand to rifle a shot past Steve Mandanda on 22 minutes.
Buoyed on by 800 noisy fans, AEL kept up the pressure and should have added a second goal when Dede placed his shot wide from another corner.
Instead, Marseille equalised from their first proper attack of the game. Joey Barton’s corner was not cleared by the AEL defence and Fanni was allowed to much space to place a header past Matias Degra.
Despite the setback, AEL should have regained the lead seconds before the interval when Monteiro’s powerful shot from inside the area was brilliantly saved by Mandanda.
But AEL went to pieces in the second half especially after the introduction of Mathieu Valbuena. The Limassol defence was uncharacteristically caught napping when Mendes scored with a free header from another corner on the hour and Remy scored his second in similar fashion to all but kill off the tie.
Gignac made it 4-1 on 90 minutes after playing a neat one-two with Remy and the French hosts made it five in stoppage time when Remy was allowed too much room after AEL were caught in possession.
AEL will next play Fenerbahce in Nicosia on October 25 with the Turkish club having enjoyed a 4-2 win away to Borussia Monchengladbach on the same night.