Cyprus hails APOEL 'miracle' win over Lyon
Published : 08 Mar 2012 18:16:57
Cypriot football fans were rubbing their eyes in disbelief on Thursday after APOEL Nicosia defied all expectations to reach the last eight of the Champions League after eliminating Lyon 4-3 on penalties.
APOEL became the first Cypriot side to reach the Champions League quarter-finals when they beat their more fabled French opponents in Wednesday's shoot-out after their last 16 tie was level 1-1 on aggregate after extra time.
Soon after the "thriller in Nicosia," hundreds of fans took to the streets of the capital into the early hours to celebrate the heroics of Greek goalkeeper Dionisis Chiotis who saved penalties from Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos.
The morning after the biggest night in the club's history, the Cypriot media were full of praise for Europe's giant killers agreeing in unison that APOEL had pulled off a footballing sensation.
Daily football newspaper Sport Day proclaimed APOEL the "eighth wonder of the world."
Goal newspaper said the victory did justice to the club's nickname Thrylos (legend). "Thank you our legend. European football has bowed once again to APOEL," said its front page.
Mass selling daily Phileleftheros said Ivan Jovanovic's team were "breaking hearts" in Europe, as the unfancied Cypriots continue their adventure.
Simerini newspaper wondered where to next on this "crazy" run in the Champions League that has sent fans "delirious with joy."
And even left-wing newspaper Haravghi -- which firmly backs APOEL's bitter cross-town rivals Omonia Nicosia -- called the dramatic win a "miracle" emerging from a "heart-stopping" encounter.
There were also plaudits from the left-led government, with spokesman Stefanos Stefanou saying APOEL had put Cyprus on the footballing map.
Other politicians across the spectrum heralded APOEL for making the "impossible possible."
"Without doubt, this is a very big night for APOEL and Cypriot football, it's something fantastic," APOEL's Serb coach said after his team triumphed 1-0 on the night after losing by the same score in France.
He added that when starting out in the competition last summer, "we didn't dream of coming this far," and attributed the victory to "incredible effort, decisiveness and organisation," while the team played a "perfect game".
Lyon coach Remi Garde said there were "no excuses" but avoided criticising his team's penalty flops.
APOEL continue their magical adventure after punching above their weight against more illustrious sides such as Porto, Zenit Saint-Petersburg and now Lyon.
APOEL are the most decorated team in Cypriot football. A founder member of the Cyprus Football Association, they were formed in a sweet shop 85 years ago.