AEK and Apoel were handed their first defeats of the season by Omonia and AEL respectively, throwing the title race in Cyprus wide open.
Four points now separate leaders AEK from fourth-placed Omonia.
“Ever since arriving here this was by far our best performance,” said Omonia’s English coach John Carver following their deserved win over AEK. Carver even had to contend with the absence of a number of key stars but the players drafted in proved able replacements.
AEK, especially in the opening 45 minutes, were poor and predictable. Even though they picked up in the second half and managed to level the score, the quick response by Omonia unsettled them.
All AEK could conjure up in the last 30 minutes were a couple of half chances that were dealt with comfortably by Omonia’s rookie stand-in keeper Christodoulou.
The home side took the lead late on in the first half when Fanos Katelaris rose unchallenged and beat AEK keeper Minio with a powerful header.
Acoran Reyes equalised for the visitors with a powerful left-foot drive from the edge of the penalty box six minutes after the break, but three minutes later the league’s leading scorer Matt Derbyshire beat Ninio with a deft touch after some good work by Christophi.
An 86th minute penalty was enough to give AEL the three points against a lacklustre Apoel in the weekend’s other big game.
Pambos Christodoulou’s team were the better side and were rarely troubled against a very disappointing Apoel with AEL’s keeper not having to make one save throughout the 90 minutes.
AEL pressed high up the field, never allowing their opponents time to settle on the ball and forcing them into mistakes. Even when their captain and central defender Dossa Junior was forced off the pitch injured late in the first half, Apoel never looked like scoring.
The penalty was awarded courtesy of a silly shove by Astiz on Arouabarena who picked himself up and sent Apoel keeper Waterman the wrong way.
The only blemish on AEL’s fine victory was resorting to unsporting behaviour as soon as they had taken the lead. On at least four occasions a second ball was deliberately thrown onto the pitch as the visitors were mounting an attack forcing the referee to stop the game.
AEL were victims of the same treatment in their previous game against AEK and were clearly furious about it.
Apollon also moved closer to the top with an emphatic 6-0 win away to Karmiotissa.
The Limassol team raced into a three-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes with a double by Papoulis and a da Silva penalty.
Maglica, Piech and Kyriacou found the net in the second half as Apollon are now six points off the top.
In the other games, Ermis came back from behind to defeat a spirited AEZ with a de Melo penalty securing the points while Doxa and Nea Salamina had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Aris were the winners in the bottom of the table clash as they defeated Anagennisi 2-1, pushing the Dheryneia team towards a quick return to the second division.
Gonzales and Martins had given Aris a two goal lead with Anagennisi pulling one back through Yiannakou.
Ethnikos Achnas host Anorthosis is Monday’s evening game (7pm)
(Highlights courtesy of the Cyprus Football Association)