APOEL FC enjoyed a fine start to life in the UEFA Champions League as a disciplined defensive display earned Ivan Jovanović's side an unexpected draw at Club Atlético de Madrid.
Having begun their journey to reach the group stage in the second qualifying round in July, the Cypriot champions used the experience gained during the summer to frustrate some of the biggest names in Spanish football. Although Diego Forlán twice went close in the final moments, striking the crossbar with a thunderous effort from 25 metres, APOEL can take huge heart from an opening-day Group D point.
The new surroundings failed to fluster APOEL and they very nearly stunned the home supporters in the seventh minute when Kamil Kosowski's cross from the left found Konstantinos Charalambides in space at the far post, Sergio Asenjo coming to Atlético's rescue with a fine stop. Despite decent periods of possession the hosts were unable to find a way through and instead it was APOEL who again came close to an opening goal, Charalambides turning provider with a left-wing free-kick that was narrowly missed by Paulo Jorge.
Sergio Agüero attempted to rouse Atlético, first winning possession and crossing for Forlán to head harmlessly wide and then bursting through only to shoot straight at Dionisios Chiotis. José Manuel Jurado should have done better when an Altin Haxhi error allowed the former RCD Mallorca attacker to run in on goal, but once again Chiotis saved the day. Neither side had managed a win in their two opening domestic league games and confidence among both teams appeared low as yet another opportunity went begging, Charalambides passing up the opportunity to lift his side's spirits by firing wide when unmarked at the far post.
With the second half beginning to drift into the same pattern as the first, home coach Abel Resino introduced Maxi Rodríguez and the Argentinian made an immediate impact as Los Rojiblancos upped the pace. Jurado was first to spot the spaces in the APOEL rearguard when he struck from the edge of the area only for Chiotis to palm away. The Greek goalkeeper then did equally well to beat out a Forlán effort, although the home support was beginning to sense a breakthrough and thought their moment had arrived when Simão set up Agüero, but again Chiotis was equal to it.
APOEL hold out
Still Atlético came and Forlán went close with a free kick that zipped wide, while APOEL's Marcin Żewłakow might have done better than head Nuno Morais's corner wide. Play swung straight back up the other end and Forlán continued to menace, striking the upright with a drive from distance before being denied by the excellent Chiotis from similar range. APOEL held firm, however, and welcome Chelsea FC to Cyprus on Matchday 2 while Atlético travel to FC Porto, the team that eliminated Resino's side in last season's first knockout round.