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Patryk Małecki scored the only goal against APOEL FC as Wisła Kraków assumed a position of strength in their bid to banish their UEFA Champions League qualifying hoodoo.
In each of their six previous campaigns in Europe's premier club competition, Wisła have fallen at the final hurdle before the group stage. Małecki, however, gave the hosts a chance of realising their dream with a memorable strike, cutting inside and rifling in a 71st-minute goal which ensures the Polish titleholders of a slender advantage going into the play-off second leg on Tuesday.
However, the raucous home crowd proved no hindrance to APOEL's positive approach in the early stages. Lone striker Aílton and Marcinho, his fellow Brazilian, were particularly to the fore, probing for openings in a Wisła side now unbeaten in eight matches this season.
Indeed, it was Aílton who gave Wisła their first cause for concern, working space on the edge of the area and warming the palms of goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko. Only the awareness of Osman Chávez then prevented the APOEL No8 from heading the Cypriot team in front after Ivan Trickovski had stood a cross up to the far post.
Wisła, though, began to get a handle on proceedings yet for all Robert Masskant's side ended the half in the ascendency, with Dionisios Chiotis quick off his line to deny Tsvetan Genkov, little had been seen of striker Maor Melikson.
That changed eight minutes into the second half, however, when the Israeli international − a scorer of two goals in the second leg against PFC Litex Lovech last time out − clipped a free-kick against the top of the crossbar. There had been no drop in the volume of the of the home fans' support since kick-off and the decibel level increased a notch or two more when Małecki became the first man to score against APOEL in five European games this season.
Receiving possession on the right wing, the 23-year-old jinked inside the challenge of William Boaventura and rifled a shot past Chiotis. Wisła's wait could soon be over.
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