APOEL FC take a slender one-goal advantage to Ireland for the second leg of their UEFA Cup qualifying round tie against Derry City FC, who will fancy their chances of a shock aggregate win after scoring a vital away goal at the GSP stadium in Nicosia.
APOEL, who narrowly missed out on a place in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League last season, were the dominant side in a somewhat one-sided first half. They were creating chances from the third minute on as the dangerous Costas Charalambides began making surging runs into the visitors' penalty area. Only Derry's impressively resolute defending managed to keep the Cypriot side at bay.
But the siege of the Derry goal was rewarded after 21 minutes when APOEL made a deserved breakthrough. A quickly taken free-kick by Kostakis Malekkos was volleyed home superbly by former Real Betis Balompié striker Wojciech Kowalczyk into Neil Bennett's left-hand corner.
Derry draw level
But APOEL took their foot off the pedal somewhat after the goal allowing Derry City to create some half-chances with both Liam Coyle and Gary Beckett threatening. And two minutes before half-time the Irish side drew level after Marinos Satsias failed to clear Eddie McCallion's cross from the right and Beckett fired in the equaliser.
Okkarides on target
Derry, who hosted FC Barcelona in a glamour friendly match at their Brandywell ground last week, did not have long to enjoy the parity, though, with APOEL regaining their lead within nine minutes of the restart. Chrysostomos Michael swung over a dangerous cross and Cypriot international defender Stelios Okkarides headed home from close range.
Dour Derry defence
APOEL continued to dominate but were unable to forge clear-cut chances until the final minutes as the Derry back four excelled. But even then Wojciech Kowalczyk and Charalambides were unable to give APOEL a more comfortable cushion for the return leg in two weeks.