The performance of FK Qarabag in Cyprus last week was not at all striking, but what they lacked from ostentation, they more than compensated for it in terms of efficiency and solidity.
Gurban Gurbanov’s men, as they have already done in this qualifying campaign, limited their rivals with the defense, conceded very little.
They did not have many arrivals, but they were clinical when they reached the last third since each of their five shots tested APOEL goalkeeper Vid Belec. Not only did Qarabag do well a week ago, but he has made two very encouraging efforts at home during the qualifying phase.
The last time they were here, the Azerbaijanis defeated Dundalk by three goals to zero. Before that, Qarabag beat Partizani Tirana at home by two goals to zero.
APOEL, which entered the process during the previous round, seemed a bit weak in its only away game in the previous round.
During the second qualifying phase, Cypriots defeated Sutjeska 1-0 away from home, but their performance was not excellent. The defensive displays so far for Apoel Nicosia are not a good omen for a trip to Tofiq Bahramov Stadium, where Tuesday’s hosts have been so effective.
The fact that APOEL has to pursue this game does not help Tuesday’s visitors, who seemed docile in the face of the first leg. In addition, the Qarabag has shown that they can score goals quite easily in their own stadium, so the fact that visitors have to take risks should benefit the hosts.