AEL Limassol FC eked out a narrow advantage against RSC Anderlecht in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League play-off.
APOEL FC had defied the odds last season to set a new precedent for Cypriot success in Europe. Perhaps taking inspiration from their domestic rivals, AEL went about their task with great application and took the lead courtesy of Dosa Júnior's 34th-minute header. Dieudonné Mbokani's equaliser 17 minutes after the break pegged them back, but ten minutes later a shot from substitute Rui Miguel went in off goalkeeper Silvio Proto to give AEL a lead to take to Belgium.
The hosts' intentions were clear in the opening exchanges with an emphasis on short, probing passing, while Anderlecht formed a formidable defensive shape, preferring to play on the counter. AEL's approach came close to paying off, Luciano Bebê pushing down the right and sliding a sumptuous centre into the path of Edmar, who dummied before firing straight at the advancing Proto.
Sharp and intuitive in possession, the visitors began to wrest back the initiative, until a momentary defensive lapse paved the way for AEL's opener. Bebê was the creator, whipping an inviting corner into the path of the unmarked Júnior, who planted a thunderous header beyond Proto.
The visitors emerged after the break with renewed vigour, determined to make up for lost time after a two-year absence from the competition. Full-back Denis Odoi led the charge, picking out Milan Jovanović with a glorious crossfield pass, but the Serbian international directed a powerful effort into the side netting with the goal at his mercy.
Refusing to relent, John van den Brom's side tightened their grip with a series of beautifully-crafted moves, one of which finally conjured a goal. A peripheral figure for much of the match, Mbokani suddenly burst to life, linking with Kanu and creating space on the edge of the area with a flicked touch before finding the net with a sublime finish.
The Cypriot champions responded emphatically. Edmar was the catalyst, twisting and turning before teeing up Rui Miguel, whose venomous strike proved too hot for Proto to handle and squirmed in off post and goalkeeper. Anderlect rallied, but their efforts to restore parity proved in vain as Guillaume Gillet sent a low shot just wide.
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