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Season review: Cyprus

Published: Friday 20 May 2011, 14.31CET
A record-breaking season for APOEL FC, cup solace for dethroned titleholders AC Omonia and an award-winning debut campaign all featured in this term's Cypriot First Division.
by John Leonidou
from Nicosia
Season review: Cyprus
Ivan Jovanović’s APOEL side won the Cypriot title this season ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 20 May 2011, 14.31CET

Season review: Cyprus

A record-breaking season for APOEL FC, cup solace for dethroned titleholders AC Omonia and an award-winning debut campaign all featured in this term's Cypriot First Division.

Consistency was the key in the Cypriot First Division this season, with coaches coming and going at 11 of the 14 top-flight teams. Indeed, only eventual champions APOEL FC, as well as AEK Larnaca FC and Ethnikos Achnas FC, stuck to their guns. APOEL's closest rivals, AC Omonia and Anorthosis Famagusta FC, changed trainers five times between them, ultimately allowing APOEL an 11-point gap at the summit.

Champions: APOEL FC
APOEL's three league victories against reigning champions Omonia were a clear indication that Ivan Jovanović's side were destined to reclaim the trophy they surrendered to their rivals last year. Having guided APOEL to the UEFA Champions League group stage in 2009/10, Jovanović has further cemented his place in club folklore by securing his third league title as coach and a record 21st for the Nicosia outfit. APOEL's shrewd summer signings, squad depth and excellent ability on the ball saw them peel away from the rest of the pack early on and they never looked back.

Cup final: Apollon Limassol FC 1-1 AC Omonia (Omonia win 4-3 on pens)
Omonia secured their 13th Cypriot Cup after defeating the holders on spot kicks in Larnaca. A first-half header from Omonia's top scorer Michalis Konstantinou was cancelled out by an own goal from skipper Elias Charalambous five minutes from time to set up a tense finale. Omonia keeper Antonis Giorgallides was the hero, denying Andreas Stavrou and Ion Erice Domínguez from the spot to provide solace for his side after they relinquished their league title.

European places*
APOEL FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
AC Omonia – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
Anorthosis Famagusta FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
AEK Larnaca FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Ailton Almeida (APOEL FC)
The 26-year-old Brazilian forward arrived from FC København last summer and quickly became a fans' favourite courtesy of his menacing runs and physical presence up front. Although not a prolific scorer, he earned his spurs through his considerable all-round contribution and was voted player of the season by the Cyprus Football Association (KOP/CFA).

One to watch: João Paulo (Olympiakos Nicosia FC)
Former Olympiakos coach Pambos Christodoulou has a reputation for sniffing out a bargain and once again worked his magic by acquiring João Paulo from Portuguese side Leixões SC last summer.  The 31-year-old Portuguese forward, who has had a much-travelled career in his homeland, Spain and Romania, took the Cypriot league by storm with his deadly finishing and dominant displays for the modest Nicosia club. He ended the season third highest top scorer with 15 league goals and has caught the attention of the island's top teams.

Surprise package: AEK Larnaca FC
Newly-promoted AEK were given little hope this season and few could have predicted the success of the Dutch partnership of coach Tom Caanen and team manager Jordi Cruyff. The Larnaca outfit embarked on a free-scoring campaign and were even title contenders themselves before running out of steam in the latter stages. However, they did earn themselves a place in the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds next season via their fourth-placed finish.

Leading scorer: Miljan Mrdaković (Apollon Limassol FC)  21

Relegated: APOP/Kinyras Peyias FC, Doxa Katokopia FC, AEP Paphos FC

Promoted: Aris Limassol FC, Nea Salamis Famagusta FC, Anagennisi Deryneia FC

Number: 21
The record number of league titles won by APOEL following their triumph this term. They are now Cyprus' most decorated club having overtaken rivals and previous champions Omonia.

"15 April will be a day I will never forget. That was the day I got the call to come to Omonia and meet the players. That day changed my coaching career forever".
Omonia coach Neophytos Larkou speaks about what has been a rollercoaster month for him. With his only previous coaching experience being in the island's lower leagues and a two-year stint as Cyprus assistant, former AEK midfielder and television pundit Larkou was surprisingly unveiled as Omonia's new coach following the dismissal of Dušan Bajević last month.

Last updated: 21/06/11 14.35CET