Cypriot champions APOEL took a big step towards reaching the Champions League group stages for a fourth time after beating Slavia Prague 2-0 on Tuesday night in Nicosia.
Giorgos Donis’ side will fly out to the Czech Republic for the second leg next week with the two-goal cushion following goals from Igor de Camargo and Stathis Aloneftis inside the opening ten minutes of the first leg at Nicosia’s GSP Stadium.
APOEL, who reached the Europa League Last 16 last season, had gotten off to the perfect start when De Camargo pounced on a loose ball from Vincenzo Ebecilio’s corner to put the hosts ahead on two minutes.
Another lapse in the Slavia defence allowed Aloneftis to put his side two goals up in the tenth minute with an audacious lob over Slavia keeper Jan Lastuvka.
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The Czech title holders came out of their shell after APOEL’s blistering start and missed several chances to equalise mainly through Michal Frydrych and substitute Muris Mesanovic but were denied by the post and some excellent saves by keeper Boy Waterman.
“The important thing is that we secured a good result but that doesn’t mean that we have qualified,” Greek coach Donis told reporters.
“We need to think about the second leg and to find a way to score there too.”
Belgian striker De Camargo, who scored his third goal in Champions League qualifying, added: “This was a very tense game. We were up against a Slavia side that was in good physical condition. But today, we saw quality and experience prevail.”