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Ajax pegged back by APOEL

APOEL FC 1-1 AFC Ajax
Gustavo Manduca cancelled out Lucas Andersen's opener to secure a first Group F point for the home side.

• APOEL and Ajax remain without a win in Group F after drawing in Nicosia
• Lucas Andersen pokes Ajax ahead after Urko Pardo denies Lasse Schöne
• Gustavo Manduca responds on 31 minutes from the penalty spot
• Second half remains goalless despite chances at both ends
• Next games: APOEL v Paris, Barcelona v Ajax (21 October)

A highly entertaining encounter in Nicosia ended all square as APOEL FC pegged back AFC Ajax to ensure both sides failed to get their first Group F win at the second attempt.

The visitors signalled their intent with scarcely 100 seconds on the clock. APOEL were still napping as the Dutch team swiftly moved between the lines, working the ball to the feet of Lasse Schöne on the left. The Dane's delicious cross, though, was wasted as Kolbeinn Sigthórsson fired wide from close range. The hosts were looking in trouble as Ajax settled and commanded proceedings comfortably, producing the majority of their attacking moves from the right flank.

It did take Ajax 28 minutes to capitalise on their superiority. Schöne beat the offside trap but his shot was saved brilliantly by Urko Pardo. However, the ball landed at the feet of Lucas Andersen whose cool finish broke the deadlock. The lead did not last long, however. Three minutes later, Ricardo van Rhijn was adjudged to have handled the ball in his box and Gustavo Manduca expertly converted the spot kick.

That equaliser shifted momentum as Giorgos Donis's men upped their sphere of operations and become increasingly dangerous, while closing down space in their own half. Sensing blood they attacked and came very close to a second goal three minutes before half-time. Manduca launched a counterattack from the left and produced a great cross, but Cillian Sheridan just failed to make contact, leaving Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen sighing with relief.

After the interval the match gained in pace as both sides came out determined to exploit their chances, each making the most of their strongest attributes – APOEL's experience and Ajax's youthful vigour. The game could have swung either way, as summed up in the 54th minute. Schöne tested Pardo's reflexes with a powerful shot and within seconds Stathis Aloneftis produced an excellent cross at the other end only for Sheridan to misplace his header by a fraction.

With 20 minutes to go Cillessen stopped Mário Sérgio's fierce drive, before Ajax flew down the pitch where Pardo's instincts kicked in to deny Sigthórsson. Frank de Boer's charges pushed late on, Davy Klaassen sending a late header just off target, but APOEL held firm and the spoils were shared.