Nicosia (Cyprus), Mar 8: APOEL Nicosia extended its improbable run in the Champions League after a pair of saves from goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis gave the Cypriot club a 4-3 penalty shootout victory over Lyon for a place in the quarterfinals.
Chiotis made two nearly identical saves by diving to his left to block penalties from Alexandre Lacazette and Michel Bastos while APOEL converted all four of its own spot kicks to stun the French club.
The game finished 1-0 to APOEL after regulation for a 1-1 aggregate score, and neither side could break the deadlock in extra time, despite the hosts going down to 10 men when goalscorer Gustavo Manduca was given his second booking with six minutes left.
Chiotis' final save set off wild celebrations as APOEL's historic run reached another milestone. Players embraced on the field, while chanting fans poured out into the streets as the din of blaring car horns echoed throughout the capital.
Police cordoned off the intersection outside the APOEL clubhouse in the Nicosia's downtown area as hundreds of fans clad in the team's color, orange, staged an impromptu street party complete vendors offering corn on the cob. Orange flares and fireworks were set off, saturating the air with thick smoke. Chanting was occasionally drowned out by the blaring horns from two semi trucks bedecked in APOEL flags.
"It's unbelievable," said Yiannos Vasileas, a 28-year-old fan who rushed to join the party with his younger brother Marios. "Then again, with the kinds of performances that this team has put in, it is believable.
"No one knows how far this team can reach now."
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said it was a great night APOEL, the fans and for Cypriot football.
"To be in the eight best teams in Europe is something fantastic. ... When we started this campaign, we couldn't have imagined getting to this point, but when you have the kind of players that I have and the self-confidence that springs from them, they can turn dreams into reality."
APOEL had already become the first team from this tiny east Mediterranean island to advance to the knockout stages of Europe's premier club competition, and few had expected them to overcome the French powerhouse.
But Manduca scored in the ninth minute to level the two-legged series, sliding in to slot captain Constantinos Charalambides' pinpoint cross into the net.
"It's a great disappointment," Lyon coach Remi Garde said. "The team lacked concentration, it left open spaces to its opponent, it didn't have a clear mind."
Lyon recovered from a slow beginning and started pushing forward for a goal, coming close in the 24th when APOEL goalkeeper Chiotis just managed to push out a looping free kick from Bastos that was heading straight into the top corner of the net.
A perfectly timed cross from Lisandro six minutes later found an unmarked Bastos in front of the APOEL net, but the Brazilian couldn't control the ball and his effort sailed wide.
Bastos also figured in Lyon's best chance of the first half, coming in the 39th when he crossed the ball to Ederson whose header just went wide of the APOEL post.
Lyon dominated possession but their pressure up front for an equalizer left them vulnerable to APOEL's counterattacks, which the Cypriot side exploited. In the 27th, Ailton's pass found Charalambides in the box but his shot found the side netting. Two minutes later, Kone's sliding tackle prevented a breakaway by Ailton. Helder Sousa's lob pass found unmarked APOEL forward Esteban Solari, but his low blast from 12 yards out was kicked away by Lyon goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Lyon upped the tempo in the second half but was lucky to escape an own goal when Cissokho's attempt to head Manduca's free kick clear bounced off the crossbar and out.
Lyon missed probably its best chance of the second half in the 72nd when Lisandro's header from inside the box forced Chiotis into a diving save.
Lyon again had most of the possession in the extra time, but its attacks only produced half chances against a compact Cypriot defense that didn't allow many openings for the French team's forwards to exploit. The French side came close in the 103rd when substitute Bafetimbi Gomis' header from a corner kick was smothered by Chiotis. Bastos' blast from the top of the box seven minutes later bounced off an APOEL defender and out.
Long-range efforts from APOEL's Brazilian substitute Marcinho sailed over the Lyon crossbar.
"What truly pleased me is that we attacked for the entire 120 minutes and we chased the goal when we had the opportunity," Jovanovic said. "I'm very happy, but tonight belongs to my players and all the fans who helped them join the eight best teams in Europe. ... The moral of this is believe in your team. Enjoy it."