Two seasons after they reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, APOEL FC marked their return to the competition with a 1-1 draw against NK Maribor in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.
Ahead at the interval through Esmaël Gonçalves's goal, the Nicosia outfit looked to be in the driving seat at GSP Stadium, the site of so many heroics during their historic 2011/12 campaign. But APOEL were pegged back on 64 minutes, Maribor captain Tavares striking to give the Slovenian champions an away goal to defend in the second leg.
The hosts began the match on the front foot, passing patiently in a manner that will have pleased coach Paulo Sérgio. Constantinos Charalambides brought an early save from Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovič but it would be Gonçalves who broke the deadlock, scoring in emphatic fashion following a clever pass from Nuno Morais.
Gustavo Manduca and Gonçalves continued to threaten but Ante Čačić's visitors fought back after half-time, levelling through Tavares just after the hour mark. The Brazilian, a former APOEL player, met Aleksander Rajčevič's cross from the left with a diving header that sneaked under the body of Urko Pardo.
Stathis Aloneftis almost restored the Cypriot side's lead on 80 minutes yet was unable to find a finish, meaning the teams will reconvene on equal terms at Stadion Ljudski vrt on 6 August.
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