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APOEL ease past AaB and into group stage

APOEL FC 4-0 Aalborg BK (agg: 5-1)
The Cypriot champions reached the group stage for the third time thanks to two goals in each half.

APOEL celebrate scoring against AaB
APOEL celebrate scoring against AaB ©Getty Images

APOEL FC ease into group stage for third time
First-half goals from Vinicius (28) and Tomás De Vincenti (43)
Cypriot champions also qualified in 2009 and 2011
Stathis Aloneftis (64) and Cillian Sheridan (75) also on target
Aalborg BK into Friday's UEFA Europa League group stage draw

APOEL reached the UEFA Champions League group stage for the third time with an impressive display against Aalborg, first-half goals from Vinicius and De Vincenti setting up a 4-0 victory that was confirmed after the break by Aloneftis and Sheridan.

Last week's 1-1 draw in Denmark gave APOEL a slender but valuable edge in the tie, and the Cypriot champions – who got to the 2011/12 quarter-finals – consolidated their advantage just before the half-hour. Tiago Gomes held up the ball before moving it on to De Vincenti, and the Italian cut it back for the advancing Vinicius to beat Nicolai Larsen with a composed finish.

APOEL pressed forward in search of more goals, yet seven minutes after taking the lead they were nearly pegged back. AaB's Thomas Enevoldsen sneaked unnoticed into the home penalty area and his firm downward header looked destined for the back of the net only for Urko Pardo to claw it away.

Two minutes before the interval, APOEL made the most of a moment of inspiration by doubling their advantage. Mário Sérgio – who would come close to making it three with a free-kick early in the second half – delivered a right-wing corner and De Vincenti got in front of his marker to volley in.

With progress all but assured, APOEL added gloss to their win four minutes past the hour when substitute Aloneftis collected a long ball to rifle a low shot past Larsen. The crowning fourth was similarly direct, Sheridan beating Rasmus Thelander to Pardo's long kick forward and cutting on to his left foot to outgun Larsen from the edge of the box, ensuring APOEL go into Thursday's group stage draw full of confidence.