Match-winning goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis felt "joy and relief" as his team-mates celebrated another remarkable evening, with APOEL FC becoming the first Cypriot team to reach the European Cup quarter-finals.
Trailing 1-0 to Olympique Lyonnais after the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie, Gustavo Manduca had the Cypriot champions on level terms nine minutes into the second leg at the GSP Stadium. That was the end of the scoring, however, setting the scene for a nerve-shredding shoot-out in which Chiotis saved from Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos to send a packed – and partisan – stadium into raptures.
"I feel joy and relief," the APOEL goalkeeper told UEFA.com. "We've achieved something no one would have thought possible at the start of the season. Things are getting serious now. We need to wait to see who else gets into the quarter-finals, but there isn't one team we would prefer to play – just let's not get Barcelona."
While Chiotis appeared somewhat stunned by his achievements, APOEL's goalscorer had no such problems putting his feelings into words. "
Today was an amazing night – it will live in our memories for many years," Manduca told UEFA.com. "We've made history for this country and we're proud of that. We want to enjoy this moment."
Manduca was in the right place to turn in Constantinos Charalambides' cross for what proved the only goal of the night and believes APOEL's fairy-tale run could be attributed to a higher power. "We knew we needed to score to stay in the competition and scoring in the first ten minutes was very important – it was a gift from God. A month and a half ago I had an operation on my groin and I didn't expect to be back so soon. God blessed me and I got the goal to keep the team in the competition – what happened tonight makes me proud."
While Manduca singled out the home support as "amazing, amazing", Nuno Morais pointed to an eagerness to seize the day as perhaps the decisive factor. "We knew we had only one chance," he explained. "We didn't know if we would get another opportunity to get through [to the quarter-finals] so we had to give everything.
We've made a great effort in every game and we have a fantastic team in which everybody helps each other. We deserve to be here."
APOEL have won five of their seven home games in this season's UEFA Champions League – losing only to FC Shakhtar Donetsk on matchday six with progress already assured – and Manduca has no doubts what has made the difference in Nicosia. "The crowd showed us again what they are about; they're just amazing. They give us so much helpthat we feel like we have more players on our side. We don't care who we play next; we're in the last eight and it's fantastic."
Manduca will be suspended for the first leg of the quarter-finals following his extra-time red card but he is clear who he would prefer to avoid in the draw on 16 March. "I don't want Barcelona. No one wants them, or Real Madrid. Every team is bigger than us and has more history than us, but we'll enjoy the games and we'll continue to dream – why not?"
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.