Resurgent Omonia crowned Cyprus champions

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Omonia Nicosia has clinched its 21st championship title after defeating AEK Larnaca 1-0 to go four points clear at the top with one game to play.

The club’s first title since 2010 was secured after closest rivals Apollon could only draw 2-2 at home to Olympiakos.

As a result, Omonia broadened the gap from Apollon to 4 points, with just one game to go at the end of the season playoff phase of the Cyprus football championship.

Despite the lockdown, thousands of Omonia fans rejoiced in the streets as champions for the first time after 11 years of hurt.

Victory will taste even sweeter with cross-town rivals and perennial winner APOEL sitting in the bottom half of the table.

Fotis Papoulis scored the only goal of the game against AEK in the 49th minute.

Limassol’s Apollon just needed to match or better Omonia’s result to keep their challenge alive before playing a decider against Omonia on Monday in the last game of the season.

Despite taking the lead against Olympiakos, with Pittas scoring early in the second half, Apollon could not hold their lead for long.

Olympiakos equalised through Mantzis five minutes later, while Zachariou gave the Nicosia team the lead in the 69th minute. Apollon’s Guerrier equalised a few minutes before the end.

After a decade of absence, Omonia kicked off this season, returning to the lucrative Champions League.

Coach Henning Stile Berg, a former Manchester United player and Norwegian international, has managed to turn Omonia into champions since his arrival in 2019.

He masterminded the elimination of Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League, taking Omonia to the playoffs for the first time in its 72-year history.

Omonia was awarded first place in the league last year but not the title as the season was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The club’s flagging fortunes were revived after being taken over by millionaire Stavros Papastavrou, in 2018 pledging to invest more than €30 mln.

The New York-based investor made good on his word from day one, saving Omonia by directly injecting €1.5 mln, crucial to pass UEFA’s financial criteria, which the club could not have met otherwise.

He also absorbed €9.5 mln of the club’s €15 mln debt, promising the football team will receive €5 mln every year for transfers and the payroll.