APOEL continue dream with shoot-out win
Dionissis Chiotis was the hero as he saved twice in a penalty shoot-out to send APOEL Nicosia into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League at the expense of Lyon.
With the score level at 3-3 in the shoot-out, Chiotis saved successive penalties from Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos to secure his side a place in the last eight on their first appearance in the knockout stages.
Gustavo Manduca scored the only goal of the night in normal time to cancel out Lacazette's winner for Lyon in the first leg. Manduca's night ended on a sour note, though, when he picked up a second booking in the 115th minute. However, his team-mates, and Chiotis in particular, ensured his dismissal was not a precursor to their elimination.
"Without doubt, this is a very big night for APOEL and Cypriot football, it's something fantastic," said APOEL's Serb coach Ivan Jovanovic. He added that when starting out in the competition last summer "we didn't dream of coming this far" and attributed the victory to "incredible effort, decisiveness and organisation" while the team "played a "perfect game".
Lyon coach Remi Garde said there were "no excuses" but avoided criticising his penalty flops. "We win as a team and lose as a team," he said. "This is a big disappointment, we didn't have control of the game, we had some good chances but that's how it goes."
"It is the worst way to go out," Lyon's midfielder Kim Kallstrom said. "Over the two games, I think we should have scored more at home. Today, it was much more balanced. And when it comes to the penalty shoot-out anything can happen."
APOEL had every reason to be confident coming into the match thanks to their record of just one defeat in their last ten home European games, and they looked bright early on.
They needed a quick goal to get their French opponents on the back foot, and that is what happened after nine minutes when the ball broke to Constantinos Charalambides in the area and his low cross was turned in at the far post by Manduca. Manduca ill-advisedly took off his shirt to celebrate his goal, a decision that earned him a caution and would come back to haunt him in extra-time.
Lyon looked for a quick response and in the 20th minute Bastos' long-range free-kick was well gathered by Chiotis. Five minutes later the home goalkeeper was almost in trouble when Ederson floated in a free-kick from the left that was headed for the top-right corner before Chiotis re-adjusted to make a good save.
Within minutes Lyon were again threatening again, Bastos's brilliant cross guided agonisingly wide by the head of Ederson. A fine, flowing passing move almost brought goal number two for the hosts, but when it fell to Esteban Solari to finish he could do no better than fire against Hugo Lloris.
Eleven minutes into the second half the hosts came close again, Helder Sousa's free-kick glanced onto his own bar by Aly Cissokho with Lloris beaten. With 71 minutes on the clock APOEL again went close, another passing move culminating with Charalambidis turning his man and centring for Solari, who could not get enough on the ball and the chance went away.
The threat at the other end remained, however, and minutes later Chiotis had to be on his toes to turn aside Lisandro Lopez's far-post header. Ailton had the home fans off their feet when he charged into the area in the 88th minute and went down under the challenge of two defenders, but referee Alberto Mallenco showed a yellow card to the attacker for going to ground too easily. That was the last real drama of the second period as the match move into extra time.
The first 15 minutes of added time was a cagey affair, with the only real chance going the way of the visitors in the 93rd minute when Paulo Jorge's clearance from Kim Kallstrom's free-kick flashed just past his own post.
Five minutes into the second period Lyon went close to breaking APOEL hearts when Lisandro took too long to take aim after being set up in the area, allowing a defender to block, while seconds later Bastos's curling effort was deflected just over. Ailton was thwarted by Bakary Kone as APOEL went in search of the winner, while substitute Ivan Trickovski then fired over a minute later.
Manduca then picked up his second yellow card for a clumsy tackle from behind on Lacazette, leaving his side to play out the final five minutes a man light. The hosts had just one scare to survive in what time remained as Lisandro fired wide from Lacazette's drilled cross, leaving penalty kicks as the undesired outcome.
After both sides scored with their first three spot-kicks, the deadlock was broken on Lyon's fourth effort when Chiotis read Lacazette's intentions to make a save low to his left, and after Trickovski had netted APOEL's fourth, Chiotis made a carbon-copy stop from Bastos to ensure his side's dream run in the competition would continue.
In terms of budget and status, APOEL are by some margin the smallest club left in the competition. The Nicosia-based club are the most decorated team in Cypriot football. A founder member of the Cyprus Football Association, they were formed in a sweet shop 85 years ago.