Last-gasp APOEL Nicosia pulled
off another shock by beating former European Cup winners Porto
2-1 to remain top of Group G on Tuesday and close to becoming
the first Cypriot team to reach the Champions League last 16.
Gustavo Manduca struck on 90 minutes to send 25,000 fans
into raptures after Porto, who were surprisingly held 1-1 by
APOEL in Portugal last time, thought they had grabbed a point
thanks to Hulk's 89th minute penalty.
Ailton's 42nd minute spot-kick had given the impressive
Cypriots the lead.
APOEL, rank outsiders before the competition, head the group
by a point from Zenit St Petersburg with two matches left and a
win at the Russians on November 23 will sensationally send them to
the knockout stages and guarantee them top spot with 11.
Zenit beat bottom side Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 earlier on
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said he would happy finishing
third in the group and dropping into the latter stages of the
Europa League, a mark of what an amazing feat it would be for
the small club if they progressed in the Champions League.
"At this stage we are very close to the Europa League and it
seems we are going to play in Europe until March," the
down-to-earth boss told reporters.
"As for the Champions League we will try to achieve it. It
will be great but still we have a way to go. My wish is that my
players will keep playing with the same passion in the remaining
two matches. If we do it, and it is up to us, then we have
chances to do many things."
Porto, the Europa League holders who last won the Champions
League under Jose Mourinho in 2004, stay on four points from
four games and are scrambling to salvage their last 16 hopes.
They next travel to Ukraine to play Shakhtar.
"It was a complicated match. The first half wasn't well
played. We had the will to win and put in many crosses but had
few clear chances and ended up conceding," Porto coach Vitor
Pereira told reporters.
"The second half was different, we created chances and made
it 1-1. After that, a team with our experience, that won the
Europa League, should have settled down and not got carried away
"We should have used our heads more but we lost balance as a
team and got punished," added Pereira.
"We still depend only on ourselves and must now win the next
two matches to qualify."
Porto controlled the game for the first 20 minutes but were
kept to shots from distance.
APOEL struggled to get organised in midfield and Ailton
wandered offside four times.
Hulk then nearly scored from close range while a minute
later the home side's Ailton had a diving header saved.
Porto then had another chance in the 38th minute when Kleber
found himself completely unmarked in the box but he was slow to
react and the ball was cleared.
Two minutes later APOEL were awarded a penalty when Ailton
was brought down in the box by Eliaquim Mangala.
Ailton stepped forward and made no mistake from the spot.
In the second half, Porto threw everything into attack but
striker Hulk was struggling to get hold of the ball in the face
of APOEL's stout defence.
The Cypriots were relying on counter-attacks and the home
side nearly grabbed a second goal but Ivan Triskovski missed
from close range.
Porto's efforts for an equaliser were finally rewarded two
minutes before the end when a foul in the box allowed Hulk to
score the penalty.
APOEL had the last laugh though with Manduca sealing the
famous victory on another counter-attack.
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