APOEL make Athletic pay the price for San Mamés lapse
The team's erratic away form was in evidence again. Even against 10 men, the Bilbaínos struggled to defend their lead in a tournament they aspire to win.
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Defeat in Nicosia
Athletic Club were dumped out of the Europa League in this evening's return leg by APOEL after being unable to defend, or build on, the 3-2 result gained from last week's first leg in Bilbao. Hopes of being battling for the trophy fell by the wayside, because yet again Valverde's team can't seem to cut in on the road. Just like in the first leg at San Mamés, APOEL's enthusiasm saw them through the tie and ensured they will be in tomorrow's Last 16 draw.
APOEL reduced to 10 men
Two things will be preying on Valverde's mind tonight - firstly how his side failed to kill off the tie - or at least reduces their opponents' chances, when they let slip a two-goal advantage at home; the coach will also be less than pleased that there was no improvement from his team even after goal scorer Pieros Sotiriou was shown a direct red card with half an hour left to play.
Just 30 seconds after the second half had kicked off, APOEL had levelled the tie and were leading on aggregate. A seemingly impossible centre from Efremwas met by Sotiriou, who with the sublest of flicks, steered the ball past Iraizoz. The night went from bad to worse just seven minutes later when Balenziaga brushed past Gianniotas - enough to send the Greek forward tumbling inside the area. A harsh penalty decision but punishment for Athletic's lack of aggression at the back. Gianniotas took the kick himself and while Iraizoz got a hand to it, it was too well struck to stop - in a question of minutes, the Basque side required two goals in little over half an hour.
Instead of mustering a measured riposte, Athletic looked shambolic for the remaining minutes - lacking penetration and coherence. Los Leones bow out 4-3 on aggregate and it seems that Valverde's spell in Bilbao could now have come full circle.
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