Big test ahead for Omonia in must-win game, Apollon with one foot in third round

first_imgBy Andreas VouOmonia must win to progress to the Europa League third-round when they host Jagiellonia Bialystok on Thursday night, while Apollon’s 4-0 first leg win over FK Trakai means that a less troubling evening awaits the Limassol club. After a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Poland last week, Omonia now need a win, or rely on the lottery of a penalty shootout should the tie remain goalless after 120 minutes, to progress to the next round. Costas Kaiafas’ men rode their luck at times in the first leg and had their 20-year-old goalkeeper Constantinos Panayi to thank for keeping the score level with two excellent saves in stoppage time of either half.The backline did its job last week and Omonia will now require the services of forwards Cillian Sheridan and Andre Schembri, who both rose to the occasion when needed in the second leg of the previous round in Cyprus against Dinamo Batumi, to help secure a place in the third round where either Beroe or Brondby await. Jagiellonia forward Patryk Tuszynski understands that his side are in for a real test and rued some of the missed opportunities of the first encounter: “We performed very well in the first game and it was a shame that we couldn’t score seeing as we made chances.”A sold-out crowd is expected at the GSP and Tuszynski is aware that they will be up against a 12th man due to Omonia’s overwhelming support.“We watched some videos of Omonia’s home games and the atmosphere is really nice. The fans are very passionate and the stands are always full.” Apollon’s sizeable lead from the first leg has afforded manager Pedro Emanuel the luxury of resting two of his star players with just another seven days between Thursday’s match and a likely third-round first leg.Fotis Papoulis has started this campaign with a bang, netting twice in the three qualifiers and so the Portuguese manager has left the Greek hitman back in Cyprus to avoid any risk of injury. Nuno Lopes, who has provided two assists in the last two European matches, will also remain on the island for precautionary reasons.Club captain Giorgos Merkis insists his side will respect the opponent despite the four-goal margin, saying: “We secured a large score in Cyprus but we will remain serious.”He also added that he feels a different air about his side this season and believes that this campaign could hold something special for Apollon, both at home and abroad.“I see some things that I didn’t see in previous years. We will be better than last season. Apollon can go far this season, not with words but with action. In Europe, we can pursue our passage to the group stages and aim high in the league.”Omonia begin their mission at 7pm in front of a packed GSP crowd while Apollon’s game in Lithuania kicks off one hour later.last_img

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