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Midfielder Constantinos Charalambides admitted APOEL FC "were feeling bitter" after missing out on a UEFA Europa League placed despite their valiant 2-2 draw at Chelsea FC, while Joe Cole reflected on "a bumpy week" for the Blues.
Ahead through Marcin Żewłakow, APOEL went in at the break 2-1 down as Michael Essien and Didier Drogba struck, but substitute Nenad Mirosavljević replied three minutes from time, and flashed a dangerous ball across stand-in keeper Ross Turnbull's area late on as his side almost snatched a win. Had they done so, they would have taken third place in Group D from Club Atlético de Madrid, as the 28-year-old Charalambides knew only too well.
'We're going to score again'
"We always knew that we could get something from this game," said the Cypriot international, who set up Żewłakow's opener. "Obviously, we also knew that Chelsea would be the ones bossing the game but we could see openings. Even at 2-1 down at half-time, I turned to [Savvas] Poursaitides and told him: 'We're going to score again in the second half.' I really felt it. Chelsea were leaving gaps at the back and we knew that we had to be patient.
"After the game, most of us were smiling in dressing room," he continued, mindful of the 3-0 home defeat by FC Porto which saw Atlético finish above APOEL on head-to head record. "We had just drawn with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, yet we were feeling bitter because we know we should have been going through to the Europa League. But we have fantastic experience from this competition. The Champions League was incredible for us."
Coach Ivan Jovanović felt similarly short-changed, especially as it was only the matter of an away goal that separated APOEL and Atlético with the group stage complete. "It was still a great night for the club because we took two points off one of the best teams in Europe," he said. "It was a fantastic result for us but it leaves us with mixed emotions. We were a little lucky with the goals we scored but the players were disciplined and patient and in the end, it paid off."
Midfielder Hélio Pinto was a little more upbeat "We were the first team to take points off Chelsea at home in the competition so it is a good feeling and we are very happy with the result," he told uefa.com. "At half-time there was a little bit of fear that Chelsea could score a few more goals. We talked about it and our coach told us to stay concentrated, to keep our heads and to try and do something positive."
They achieved that, but there were precious few positives emanating from the Chelsea camp with Carlo Ancelotti saying "it was the poorest we have played since I became manager". Eliminated from the League Cup by Blackburn Rovers FC and beaten 2-1 in the league by Manchester City FC over the last seven days, midfielder Joe Cole conceded: "It's been a bumpy week. We need to get back to winning ways and December will be an important month. If we can get to January and still be sitting at the top of the table that will be great."
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