The third round of the Champions League qualifications saw its first matches all around Europe tonight. Three of five contests ended with a draw, with only Qarabag and Club Brugge recording victories.
The biggest game of the night was in Greece, where PAOK hosted Ajax Amsterdam. That match ended 2-2 after a lot of excitement and fierce battle. The semifinalists of the previous Champions League edition reached the lead first, through Hakim Ziyech. But Greeks turned the table until the end of the halftime, scoring twice and making it 2-1 for them, with Akpom and Matos beating Onana.
Former Real Madrid and Schalke striker, veteran Klaas Jan Huntelaar set the final result in the 57th minute of the event. Interestingly, this is the fourth time that these two teams meet in the UCL qualifiers. From the previous 7 matches, including this one, six were draws.
It was tense in Belgrade also, where Red Star met with Copenhagen. The Serbian team dominated during the first half, not allowing the visitors to breathe. Milan Pavkov, the hero of last year’s win over Liverpool, scored one minute before the break, setting 50,000 spectators at Rajko Mitic on fire.
The atmosphere was fantastic as always when Serbian champion plays. But the Danish team took over the wheel in the second half, pressuring the hosts, who waited a chance for counter-attacks. It was the 84th minute when referee Thiago Martin pointed towards the penalty. Red Star’s Dusan Jovancic brought down one of his rivals, and there was no doubt for Martin.
Jonas Older Wind equalized with the Panenka kick, bringing the small advantage to Copenhagen’s side before the rematch.
The third draw of the night was in Croatia, where Dinamo Zagreb played 1-1 with Ferencvaros. The situation was similar to the one in Belgrade. The home team was better in the first half, but couldn’t keep the advantage. Dinamo netted after just 7 minutes of play. Dani Olmo, one of the most talented players in Europe, was the scorer. However, after the halftime break, the Hungarian team woke up and hit back. The stopwatch passed a one-hour mark when David Siger put the ball behind Dinamo’s goalkeeper.
The surprise of the night took place in Cyprus. APOEL lost to Qarabag from Azerbaijan, 1-2, and complicated its plans to reach the playoffs. After a boring first half, the second part of the game saw all three hits. Mahir Emreli and Magaye Gueye made it 0-2, and Giorgios Merkis kept some hope for APOEL in the fifth minute of the stoppage time. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the rematch as both of these teams have a similar quality.
Club Brugge has a minimal edge before heading for Ukraine. The Belgian team defeated Dynamo Kyiv with 1-0, in not so interesting match as many expected. The sole goal in this event came from a penalty, with Hans Vanaken converting the same in the 37th minute. The second 45 minutes were very poor with soccer, and it appears that both sides wanted the game to finish as soon as possible.
The rematches of these games are scheduled for next Tuesday. Wednesday brings us more UCL games. Krasnodar awaits Porto, Basaksehir plays at home against Olympiakos, which should be a very intense match. Basel meets with LASK Linz, Celtic travels to Romania to play with Cluj, and Maribor hosts Rosenborg.