APOEL Nicosia FC 2-0 Grazer AK
APOEL Nicosia FC will take a two-goal lead into their UEFA Cup first round second-leg tie away to Grazer AK, but the Cypriots may yet live to regret the chances they spurned against their Austrian opponents.
Marios Agathocleous was guilty of missing APOEL's first clear-cut chance in the 28th minute when his scissors-kick arrowed wide of the target. Then moments later, Demetris Daskalakis went agonisingly close with a good header from Kostakis Malekkos' inswinging free-kick.
But the home side were finally rewarded for their constant pressure after 34 minutes when Hungarian striker Barnabas Sztipanovics collected a fine pass from Marinos Satsias and dribbled past two players before striking a powerful left-footed drive into Franz Almer's right-hand corner.
The second half began in similar fashion to the first, with APOEL missing decent scoring opportunities until Armenian international Romik Khachatryan drove an unstoppable 35-metre free-kick into Almar's left-hand corner after 70 minutes.
The Austrians introduced three attackers at various intervals during the second half in a desperate attempt at securing an away goal, but the best opportunity they could muster came in the 55th minute when Ilco Naumoski's header hit the crossbar following a goalmouth scramble. The Austrians seemed content to try their luck from long range throughout the match, but different tactics seem sure to be employed in the return match in two weeks' time.
"I am satisfied with the result, but not with the performance of the team," said APOEL coach Euge Gerards afterwards. "However, the target we set was reached, and that was to win the game, but at the same time not to concede any goals. Despite our performance, we pressured the Austrians in all areas of the field, and the only time I worried was during the last ten or 15 minutes of the game."