Cypriot debutants frustrate Atletico
Atletico Madrid were held to a goalless draw in their opening UEFA Champions League group game against Cypriot debutants APOEL on Tuesday.
Atletico owed their presence in the last 32 for the second year running to a 5-2 aggregate defeat of Greek side Panathinaikos in the play-offs, while APOEL put themselves on the European map by beating Copenhagen 3-2 over two legs. Atletico coach Abel Resino started Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero up front while his opposite number, Serbian Ivan Jovanovic, was missing forward Nenad Mirosavljevic but welcomed back defender Altin Haxhi from suspension.
The visitors from Nicosia had the first chance of the match in the seventh minute from Maroin Zewlakow but it was virtually all one-way traffic after that as Atletico dominated in attack without succeeding in breaking down APOEL's defence. The underdogs were living dangerously when Christos Kontis was booked for a foul on Jose Manuel Jurado in the 24th minute.
Forlan stepped up to take the free-kick from the edge of the area, forcing APOEL keeper Dionisios Chiotis into evasive action. On the half-hour mark Chiotis had to look lively to deny Jurado's close range effort.
Down at the other end APOEL's Kamil Kosowski then had a shot blocked and the Cypriot champions went into the break rueing a brace of shots off target to leave everything to play for in the second half.
Jovanovic brought Boban Grncarov on for Paulo Jorge at the start of the second period with Resino introducing Maxi Rodriguez for Cleber Santana shortly after as both sides sought to break the stalemate.
Atletico deserved to be fully in control with a total of ten shots on target compared to APOEL's sole early effort. But APOEL were holding out for a point at the Vicente Calderon stadium despite Atletico's sharp superiority in attack but they came away from their debut group game with a hard earned if a little fortuitous point.
Chelsea lead Group D after a 1-0 win over FC Porto with Atletico and APOEL in a share of second.