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Season review: Cyprus

Published: Friday 18 May 2012, 13.37CET
AEL Limassol FC's second title success was the big news of the season on the domestic front in Cyprus, but APOEL FC's continental achievements captured the public imagination.
by John Leonidou
from Nicosia
Season review: Cyprus
Aílton worked wonders in Europe with APOEL ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 18 May 2012, 13.37CET

Season review: Cyprus

AEL Limassol FC's second title success was the big news of the season on the domestic front in Cyprus, but APOEL FC's continental achievements captured the public imagination.

AEL Limassol FC celebrated their first title in 44 years while AC Omonia retained the Cypriot Cup, though the island's stars of the season may have been APOEL FC.

Champions: AEL Limassol FC
AEL fans regarded Pambos Christodoulou with some suspicion when he took over as coach, given that his reputation was based on his ability to steer modest sides away from relegation. However, AEL chairman Andreas Sofocleous saw the potential in his former army comrade, and it was the 44-year-old's eye for bargain foreign signings and ability to inspire limited players that led the club to their first title since 1968. AEL did not buckle under pressure in the end-of-season play-offs as some predicted. "We proved we had the strongest and most consistent team in the championship," said Sofocleous. "Our fans have been brilliant. I saw an older fan in tears – he last saw AEL celebrate the title back in 1968."

Cup final: AC Omonia 1-0 AEL Limassol FC
A domestic drouble proved to be a dream too far for AEL as Neophytos Larkou's Omonia retained the trophy they won last season, January signing André Alves scoring the only goal on 17 minutes. Rwandan defender Edwin Ouon's dismissal for AEL then ensured that the Nicosia side went on to collect their 14th Cypriot Cup. "We earned this," said Omonia captain Christos Karipidis, whose team had also beaten AEL 1-0 to finish third in the league. "We really wanted to win, especially for our fans. I hope this will be a good platform for the future because it is special to defend your trophy."

European places*
AEL Limassol FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
AC Omonia – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
Anorthosis Famagusta FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
APOEL FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Aílton (APOEL FC)
The Brazilian striker received the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) top player award for the second year running, with the 27-year-old former FC København forward having been an inspiration since arriving in 2010. He could not lead them to domestic glory this time around, but his double against Wisła Kraków in the play-offs propelled APOEL into the UEFA Champions League group stage, where he was to score three more – once against FC Zenit St Petersburg and twice versus FC Porto – and lay on another for Gustavo Manduca in APOEL's 5-2 defeat at Real Madrid CF in the quarter-finals.

One to watch: Valentinos Sielis (Anorthosis Famagusta FC)
Having established himself at Anorthosis, the 22-year-old Sielis is expected to be a fixture for the national team in the years to come, with coach Nikos Nioplias planning a major overhaul ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in September. The former Cyprus Under-21 captain usually plays on the left side of defence but has also shown that he can hold his own in a more central role. He was named as the most promising youngster at the CFA end-of-season awards.

Surprise package: APOEL FC
On the domestic front, Ivan Jovanović's APOEL could not hold a candle to AEL, but their progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League captured the imagination of a continent. It was a European adventure that far exceeded the expectations of even the most avid Cypriot football fan and an accomplishment that put the local game well and truly on the world football map. "Our achievement is cause for great pride for this club and for everyone in Cyprus," concluded striker Esteban Solari. "The dream is over but what better way to end it than against a team like Madrid."

Leading scorer: Freddy (AC Omonia) 17

Relegated: Ermis Aradippou FC, Anagennisis Derynia FC, Aris Limassol FC

Promoted: Ayia Napa FC, Doxa Katokopia FC, AEP FC

Number: 44
The number of years AEL had to wait to get their hands on the league title for the second time. Fans declared that there would be 44 days of celebration in honour of this success.

Quote
"We have enjoyed some memorable experiences over the past two years against great teams. We have improved markedly in that time and earned our place among Europe's best eight teams. We have played good teams, better teams, and now we are up against the kings of football. This is APOEL's zenith."
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanović surveys the magnitude of his side's achievement at the Santiago Bernabéu.

Last updated: 10/07/12 0.06CET

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