APOEL suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Gheorghe Haji’s Viitorul on Wednesday night in their Champions League first leg, third qualifying round meeting in Constanta.
The defeat means Mario Been’s men must pick themselves up ahead of the second leg in Nicosia after a lackluster performance which saw the Cypriot champions produce almost nothing in the second half in terms of chances and only two half-decent opportunities in the first half through Igor de Camargo and Vinicius.
The winning goal came from Cristian Ganea 15 minutes from time when the wing back drilled a brilliant curling freekick over the wall and beyond the stranded Boy Waterman – who had still managed to keep the score down to just one goal after pulling off a few great blocks.
Viitorul striker George Tucudean was sent off in dying minutes after picking up a second yellow card.
Failure to eliminate the Romanian champions could spell disaster for APOEL even if they do drop into the playoffs of the Europa League.
APOEL are expecting a capacity crowd at the GSP Stadium next week but the new Dutch coach knows that his players will need to raise their game if they are to turn the deficit around.
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Hagi, nicknamed “The Maradona of the Carpathians” and considered Romania’s all-time greatest player, founded Viitorul in 2009 and still owns the club, known for nurturing young talent in the Black Sea state.
APOEL are looking to reach the group stages of the Champions League for a fourth time.
— John Leonidou (@UEFAcomJohnL) July 26, 2017
Last year, under current Leeds United boss Thomas Christiansen, they were eliminated by FC Copenhagen in the Champions League playoffs, but then went on to reach the Last of the Europa League during an impressive run which also saw wins over Olympiacos (twice) and Athletic Club.
On Thursday night, Apollon Limassol, AEL and AEK Larnaca are in action in the third qualifying round of the Europa league. Apollon are away to Scottish side Aberdeen, AEL are in Vienna to face Austria Wien while AEK are at home to Dinamo Minks.