By John Leonidou
Cypriot champions Apollon Ladies were smiling yesterday after being pitted against SV Neulengbach in the Women’s Champions League draw for the Last 32.
Angelos Tsolakis’ side – who were unseeded in the draw and are making their Last 32 appearance for the fourth time in succession – will fancy their chances against Austrians.
The first leg will take place on October 9 with the most likely venue being the Pafiakos Stadium while the return leg in Austria will take place on October 16.
If the Limassol club succeed in advancing to the next round, then they will play the first leg away against either competition first-timers Konak of Turkey or Polish side Unia Raciborz – two sides that are again believed to be well within Apollon’s reach.
“This is a good draw for us”, Apollon chairman Andreas Marangos told The Cyprus Daily. “We are happy because this a golden chance for us to make history to not only reach the Last 16 but also the quarterfinals.”
Apollon have never advanced beyond the Last 32 of women’s premier club competition having suffered narrow eliminations in the past at the hands of Russia’s Zvezda Perm, Sparta Prague and Italian side Torres.
In this season’s competition, Apollon strolled out of their qualifying group with a 100% record and no goals conceded in their preliminary round games against ASA Tel Aviv, Moldovan outfits Goliador and Zamky of Slovakia.
The club drafted in American sisters Tina and Gina DiMartino during the summer although it remains to be seen if they will remain at the club for the next games in Europe.
But the Apollon fans will be boosted by the news that two players who impressed for Apollon last season, American playmaker Sinead Farrelly and goalkeeper Michelle Betos, will make a return for the remainder of the club’s games in Europe. “Sinead and Michelle will definitely be coming back to help us and we are also hoping to bring in a few more reinforcements”, added Marangos.
Some of the other summer signings have included Greece captain Danai-Eleni Sidira, American defender Kelly Ann Henderson and American-Cypriot goalkeeper Arianna Efstathiou.
Some of the other top performers for Apollon include skipper Margarita Sofocleous, Christiana Solomou, Liliana Kostova, Andreea Laiu, Marilena Georgiou and youngster Antri Violari.
Apollon have secured the league and Cyprus Cup double every season for the last five years without ever having lost a domestic game.