APOEL Nicosia FC 2-3 AEK Athens FC
AEK Athens FC are on course for the UEFA Champions League first group stage after a goal three minutes into injury time from Themistoklis Nikolaidis provided the Greek side with an away victory against APOEL Nicosia FC.
Nikolaidis, rather anonymous in attack for AEK until the latter stages of the match, battled through the Cypriot defence to score an unlikely winner only moments after APOEL had equalised. With 90 minutes on the clock, it had looked like the Cypriot champions had recorded another famous result against their Greek neighbours when Costakis Malekkos fired in from the penalty spot, but AEK had other ideas in this third qualifying round first-leg match.
Nonetheless, the Cypriots were on the scoreboard first when Marinos Ouzounidis headed in Konstantinos Charalambides' free-kick midway through the first half. It was a sweet goal for the ex-Panathinaikos FC defender, but no more than APOEL deserved after a bright opening to the match in which Malekkos and Stavros Georgiou had decent scoring opportunities.
But two goals in a five-minute spell either side of the interval from Vasileois Borbokis left AEK in the ascendancy. With APOEL retreating ever further into defence, AEK were winning free-kicks almost at will around the edge of the penalty area, and from the fourth such set-piece, Borbokis curled the ball into Michael Morphis' right-hand corner.
Worse to follow
That goal came in the 44th minute, but worse was to follow for APOEL as the visitors went ahead with their first meaningful raid of the second half. Borbokis played a short corner into Grigorios Georgatos before receiving the ball again. He then ran into the area and deftly swerved the ball around Morphis.
APOEL looked beaten from then, although Georgiou should have troubled the target in the 63rd minute when he was played through on goal by Marinos Satsias only to shoot high and wide. Though the Cypriots ultimately mustered an equaliser, it was AEK and Nikolaidis who departed as victors and, with their three away goals, overwhelming favourites to advance to the first group stage.
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