APOEL’s Euro fairytale continues

APOEL’s Euro fairytale continues

NICOSIA - The Associated Press
APOEL’s Euro fairytale continues

Players of APOEL celebrate the Porto win, arguably the biggest victory in the club’s history, at the GSP stadium in Nicosia. AP photo

Gustavo Manduca’s last-minute goal on Nov. 1 gave APOEL a 2-1 win over FC Porto to extend its surprising unbeaten run in the Champions League to four matches.

A quick counterattack by the Cypriot champion in the 90th minute opened up the Porto defense, allowing an unmarked Manduca to latch onto a low cross from captain Constantinos Charalambides and hit a first-time shot from close range past goalkeeper Helton.

APOEL leads Group G with eight points, one ahead of Zenit St. Petersburg and four in front of Porto. Shakhtar is in last place with two points after a 1-0 loss to Zenit earlier Tuesday.

APOEL qualified for the Champions League group stage for just the second time and now has two wins and two draws in four matches, giving it a solid chance of advancing to the competition’s knockout stage.

“Certainly, it’s one of the most important moments in the history of this team,” APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said. “This gives us more motivation to remain in the fist two spots of the group and advance to the next round of the Champions League.” Jovanovic said his team’s plan to take advantage of any defensive lapses from Porto paid off.

“We know who we are, we know our opponents, we have great respect for Porto, Zenit, Shakhtar,” Jovanovic said. “We have great confidence and we’re going into these matches to show what we’re capable of.” Porto coach Vitor Pereira rebuffed a question about whether his team should be ashamed of its performance, dismissing it as not serious.

“Both teams played hard to win, we played our way, they played theirs,” Pereira said. “Toward the end we tried to keep play in the midfield, but a momentary lapse of concentration cost us.”