Anorthosis defies the odds

Cypriot champions Anorthosis Famagusta defied the odds last night by eliminating Turkish runner-up Trabzonspor in the second round of the Champions League qualifying competition with a 3-2 aggregate score. Playing the second leg of this politically charged encounter at home, Trabzonspor could do no better than a 1-0 victory, which was not enough following last week’s 3-1 loss in Nicosia. Anorthosis Famagusta was left with 10 men 16 minutes before regular time after Nicolaos Katsavakis was sent off. The game ended with high drama as the Turkish side found the back of the net deep into injury time, in the 95th minute, only to realize the goal was disallowed for being offside. Had it counted, it would have put the Turkish team through to the next round. Anorthosis Famagusta will now face Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers in the third round of qualifying, a step before group competition, unprecedented for any Cypriot club. They meet for the first leg in Cyprus next week. Approximately 150 Cypriot fans were among the Trabzon stadium’s 20,000 fiery home team fans. The hosts opened the scoring in the 40th minute with a header by skipper Fatih Tekke, but their hopes of overturning last week’s loss were dashed as they wasted multiple opportunities to score. After 81 minutes, Fatih Tekke send midfielder Gokdeniz Karadeniz through, but he shot over the bar. In the closing stages, Mehmet Yilmaz’s effort was cleared by the Cypriot defense before Celaleddin Kocal headed in. But the effort was disallowed by Austrian referee Gerald Lehner for being offside. Local authorities took tight security measures for the game, putting on duty some 1,000 policemen, among them officers in full riot gear, at the Avni Aker stadium and across the city on the southern Black Sea coast. The pre-match tension was high – even colorful. Cypriot newspaper Fileleftheros ran a story claiming the Turkish club offered call girls to the game’s Austrian referees in a bid to sway them in their favor. The Cypriot club’s president Andreas Panteli backed the claims and reportedly informed both the Cypriot soccer federation’s head and UEFA officials charged with supervising the encounter. Turkey and Cyprus have no diplomatic ties owing to Cyprus’s partition since 1974, when Turkey occupied the Turkish-populated north of the Mediterranean island in response to a Greek-Cypriot coup aimed at union with Greece. Ankara refuses to endorse the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government in the south and instead recognizes the breakaway Turkish-Cypriot state, where it maintains thousands of troops. Hailing from the occupied town of Famagusta, Anorthosis now plays its games further south in Larnaca. But last week’s first-leg home game was played in Nicosia as no other stadium in Cyprus was up to UEFA standards.