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AEK and Omonia send Cypriot star soaring

Cypriot sides AEK Larnaca FC and AC Omonia were left taking stock of "overwhelming" performances as 3-0 victories against strong opposition left them on the verge of the play-offs.

Gonzalo García was among the scorers for AEK Larnaca
Gonzalo García was among the scorers for AEK Larnaca ©Domenic Aquilina

AEK Larnaca FC coach Ton Caanen admitted he was "overwhelmed" after his side shocked Czech outfit FK Mladá Boleslav 3-0 on an impressive night for Cypriot football in the UEFA Europa League third qualifying round.

"This is a great result," the Dutchman said as he surveyed his side's achievement at the GSZ Stadium. "It is not just the fact that we scored three times but also that we kept a clean sheet. Everyone who saw the game witnessed two very good sides and there was little to separate them, but we played better in the second half. We were more fortunate and we scored three goals."

Gregor van Dijk, one of four Dutchmen in the starting XI, broke the deadlock from the penalty spot just after the hour. Gonzalo García doubled the advantage before Tim de Cler made it three deep into added time, leaving AEK well-placed ahead of next Thursday's return in the Czech Republic. Caanen is taking nothing for granted, however, insisting that "nothing is over". He added "We have an advantage but we are not through. The second leg starts at 0-0."

AC Omonia coach Neophytos Larkou was similarly circumspect after enjoying a dream debut in European competition. The Cypriot Cup holders were very much second favourites going into their tie with Dutch outfit ADO Den Haag but showed utter contempt for their billing. A penalty from Alex set them on their way prior to half-time before goals from Hernán Rengifo and Dimitris Christofi sealed an impressive 3-0 win.

"The players put in a massive effort and each and every one of them was focused," said former Cypriot international Larkou. "The first half is over so now we have to prepare to finish off what we started. We need to be ready. The first and last thing I told my players was that we are not through yet. Our opponents are a completely different side at home and we will be in for nasty surprise if we forget that."

The only black spot on an otherwise memorable night for Cyprus came for Anorthosis Famagusta FC, who lost 2-0 at home to FK Rabotnicki.