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APOEL reign supreme

Published: Thursday 27 May 2004, 11.53CET
Cyprus review: With just one league defeat all season, there was no denying APOEL FC their 18th title.

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Published: Thursday 27 May 2004, 11.53CET

APOEL reign supreme

Cyprus review: With just one league defeat all season, there was no denying APOEL FC their 18th title.

With just one league defeat all season there was no denying APOEL FC their 18th title - but there were still plenty of surprises in Cypriot football this term.

Coaching change
An unexpected change of coaches after just eleven games saw Dusan Uhrin exit APOEL despite their unbeaten start. Ivan Jovanovic took over, and shepherded the Nicosia team to the championship, making up for their bitter disappointment at the hands of Omonia AC last season.

Champions League chance
Konstantinos Charalambides was a key player and he is now looking to the UEFA Champions League, which APOEL enter in the first qualifying round. He said: "In my opinion we had a fantastic run two years ago and I hope that we will get a favourable draw so we can achieve our dream and participate in the group stage."

AEK joy
APOEL may have won the league but the double proved beyond them. Crowd trouble marred their the second leg of their Cypriot Cup semi-final against AEL Limassol FC in Nicosia and the match was abandoned. The Cyprus Football Association eventually handed AEL a 2-0 victory, but they were beaten 2-1 in the final by AEK Larnaca FC, who claimed the cup for the finst time.

Rauffmann retirement
Omonia were tipped at the start of the season to retain the title, following the arrival of Slovakia international striker Josef Kozlej from Olympiakos Nicosia FC. However, his attacking partner Rainer Rauffmann was forced to retire through injury midway through the campaign and German midfield player Marco Haber fell out with coach Toni Savevski. They must now settle for a UEFA Cup spot after finishing three points behind APOEL.

Dumitrescu exit
Elsewhere, Apollon Limassol FC made a superb start under Romanian legend Ilie Dumitrescu and set the early pace. But a shock 1-0 home defeat by newly promoted Anagennises Dherynias FC prompted successive losses against Ethnikos Achnas FC, Anorthosis Famagusta FC and APOEL, and Dumitrescu left for Greek giants AEK Athens FC. Austrian coach Rolf Freiger subsequently led them to third place and striker Lukasz Sosin finished joint-top scorer in the league along with Omonia's Josef Kozlej on 21 goals.

AEL turnaround
Meanwhile across town, AEL had the exact opposite season. A poor start prompted Greek coach Yiannis Mantzourakis's departure after just nine games and he was replaced by the Belgian Henk Houwaart, who had led Omonia to the 2001/02 title. He turned their campaign around, and AEL finished fourth and reached the cup final.

Cup drama
There, though, they were humbled by AEK, who secured the first trophy in their ten-year history. After Michalis Hadjipieris and Nicos Andronicou each had turns as AEK coach, Andreas Mouskallis took over and was in charge when Makis Papaioannou's last-gasp winner secured their cup final triumph.

Anorthosis survive
It was a less happy season for the 2003 cup winners Anorthosis Famagusta FC. Financial problems left them close to bankruptcy, with their Antonis Papadopoulos stadium put up for sale at one point. But player-coach Timuri Ketsbaia still managed to achieve fifth place.

Familiar faces return
Of the rest, there were brief top-flight stays for Doxa Katokopia FC, Onisilos Sotiras FC and Anagennises, all relegated 12 months after winning promotion. The three sides they replaced last summer, Nea Salamis FC, Aris Limassol FC and Alki Larnaca FC, all earned returns for next season.

Last updated: 01/02/12 5.00CET

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