APOEL will head to Limassol this weekend to take on leaders AEL in bullish mood after dismantling Anorthosis Famagusta 8-1 yesterday to set up a mouth-watering season finale.
AEL are currently three points ahead of Giorgos Donis’ APOEL after their battling 3-2 win over Omonia on Saturday but have been far from impressive in recent games and will a resurgent APOEL who have defeated them three times in their last three meetings (1-0, 1-0 in the Cyprus Coca-Cola Cup and 3-0 in the league last month) at a packed Tsirion Stadium in Limassol.
And title holders APOEL sent out an early warning yesterday as they overwhelmed a depleted Anorthosis side to leave them stunned after one of their worst ever domestic defeats.
Brazilian defender Kaka – who was a replacement for the injured Marcelo Oliveira – grabbed a brace with two headers while Argentinean playmaker Tomas de Vincenti snatched a hat-trick (two from the penalty spot) before further goals from Joao Guilherme, Cillian Sheridan and Mario Sergio. Anorthosis, whose young Albanian keeper Aldo Teqja (photo) endured a nightmare appearance, had Demetris Economou sent off early on for a foul on Sheridan while but did manage to score a late consolation goal while Marko Andic’s header took a wicked deflection off Nuno Morais.
“My players deserve big congratulations after a performance like that. But they need to be congratulated for their effort throughout the title race. It’s a real pleasure for me to work with such great characters and professionals. They players have been working extremely hard. This win is vital for us. We have two finals left (the other being the Cyprus Cup final against Ermis Aradippou). We will get to work this week with confidence and total focus. We now head to Limassol to win the league title.”
AEL will be crowned league champions for the seventh time in their history with a win or draw against APOEL on Saturday while the Nicosia club will only clinch the championship crown with a victory over Ivaylo Petev’s side.
Meanwhile third place Apollon Limassol may have missed out on the chance to snatch the league title but their hopes of snatching second place – and their second ticket into the Champions League qualifiers – are still alive after their 5-1 thrashing of Ermis Aradippou yesterday.
Christakis Christoforou’s men will need to beat Anorthosis away in their last game hope APOEL lose in their final game showdown against AEL.
In the other group game on Saturday, Ermis Aradippou take on Omonia in a game which will settle which side finishes fourth. Nicos Panagiotou’s Ermis are currently fourth on goal difference above Omonia with a win or draw enough to ensure they secure a top four finish.
Meanwhile, Doxa coach Demetris Ioannou described his side’s 2-0 win over Aris Limassol as “one of the happiest of my life” after the refugee club sealed their status in the top flight next season whilst sending their opponents back in the second division.
Ethnikos Achnas also ensured they avoided relegation after they battled to a 2-1 win at Nea Salamina.
In what was a heated encounter at the Makarios Athletic Centre, Doxa repelled an early siege from Aris before taking lead on 20 minutes through Brazilian forward Diogo Ramos and the hosts dominated proceedings after the interval before adding the killer blow seven minutes from time as Carlitos scored following a quick break.
The game ended with confrontations between club officials and players from both sides but that did little to dampen the spirits of Ioannou who arrived last month from already-relegated AEK Kouklion to revive the dwindling fortunes of Doxa.
“This is one of the happiest days of my life and I feel proud to have worked with these players. We rode our luck in the beginning but we made our chances count at the end. I feel for Aris as I know what it’s like to work in a team that goes down.”
His comments would have done little soothe the anguish at Aris – who were fuming with referee Christos Nicolaides – and Aris’ Dutch boss Ton Caanen made his feelings known at the end.
“I had told my players before the game that you can beat your opponent but not the system. The team may have gone down but nobody is dead. They have what it takes to come back up.”
In the other game, Marco Aurelio scored a 75th minute penalty to keep Ethnikos in the first division after Junior Mengolo had previously cancelled out an early strike from Nicos Barboudis.