APOEL Nicosia are through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League and will continue their spectacular and improbable run. They are the first team from the country of Cyprus to advance to the quarterfinals of the competition. After losing 1-0 away in Lyon, APOEL scored a first half goal in the home leg on Wednesday, then held on to force extra time and eventually penalties with the score still tied 1-1 after 210 minutes. Dionisis Chiotis made two fantastic saves in the shootout, giving his team the 4-3 shootout victory.
The goal was a brilliant one, scored in the 9th minute by Gustavo Manduca. His finish was a simple tap-in, but was set up by a great assist by Costa Charalambides that took an equal amount of fantastic effort and skill.
Lyon created scoring chances for the remaining 80 minutes-plus-extra time, but did not ever look like they had a fantastic chance of creating a winning away goal. APOEL defended brilliantly for the remainder of the match to force penalties, unsurprisingly. They were able to score on the counter and sit on leads for much of the group stages and the game felt like it was destined for penalties right when Manduca scored.
Kim Kallstrom, Ailton, Lisandro Lopez, Nuno Morais, Bafetimbi Gomis and Nektarious Alexandrou scored the first six spot kicks in succession, though Lisandro's make wasn't a simple one. He hit the post, then got a lucky bounce off of the back of Chiotis.
After Alexandrou's goal, Alexandre Lacazette stepped up to take for Lyon. The young star was the Bronze Shoe winner at the 2011 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and he scored Lyon's goal in this tie at the Stade de Gerland, but the pressure appeared to get the better of him on this occasion. He took a stutter step before hitting his penalty, giving Chiotis more time to read where he was going. The result was a massive save.
Ivan Trickovski scored the next penalty for APOEL, putting Michel Bastos in a must make situation for Lyon. Lacazette gave Chiotis a gift on the previous penalty, but this one was taken swiftly and well-placed. Chiotis just made an absolutely stellar save to send his team through to the quarterfinals and send the fans in Nicosia into raptures.
Was there ever any point to playing this match? Barcelona held a 3-1 lead in their Champions League tie against Bayer Leverkusen, and all they needed to do to advance was not let their opponents score three goals. At the Camp Nou, the chances of that happening was something roughly equal to never ever ever.
With a competitive fixture completely out of the question, the defending champions instead put on a show, with Lionel Messi (of course) as the star. It took the hosts 25 minutes to get on the scoresheet through their Argentinian talisman, but 17 minutes later Messi made it two and then the floodgates opened in the second half. Messi got another two and Cristian Tello also grabbed a brace before the hosts seemingly got bored of the whole thing shortly after the hour mark
Barca snapped out of their funk in the 84th minute having gone a whole 22 minutes without notching, with Lionel Messi beating Bernd Leno again with a shot from outside the box. It's the first time, surprisingly, that the little magician has scored five goals in a match, but he deserved it tonight after a wonderful performance that will have left his Bundesliga opponents cursing the luck of the draw.
Barcelona wouldn't score again, but they didn't need to bother with such mundane concerns and were nice enough to allow Leverkusen a 90th minute consolation goal, which probably didn't make their guests very happy at all. Ultimately, Barca's 7-1 victory was enough to see them win 10-2 on aggregate and advance to the quarterfinals in breathtaking fashion.
APOEL Nicosia are fielding a slightly more attacking lineup than expected, though it's merely in subtle personnel changes. Esteban Solari starts up top, and he is more of a true striker than regular starter Ivan Trickovski. In a slightly surprising move, William and Olivera both start at the back while Kaka is benched. Lyon have opted to bench Bafetimbi Gomis for Ederson, which likely means that Lisandro Lopez will play as a true center forward instead of in the hole. Here are the lineups.
Barcelona have a two-goal lead and three away goals ahead of their UEFA Champions League second leg encounter with Bayer Leverkusen, but they're taking this match very seriously. Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi all start. Carles Puyol has been injured recently and isn't risked. Eric Abidal is also out injured. Bayer Leverkusen are going with an aggressive lineup, though it's not clear if it's a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. Simon Rolfes could play central midfield or right midfield, while two center forwards have been selected. If this does become a 4-3-3, Eren Derdiyok will play wide.