ANDERLECHT OFF TO GROUP STAGE
Anderlecht left it late to book their place into the Champions League group stage when Dieumerci Mbokani sealed the win in the 81st minute. Oleksandr Iakovenko added another minutes later.
After putting in a full 90 minute shift over the weekend in league play, American Sacha Kljestan was called upon to do the same and again went the distance in a solid midfield performance.
The home team immediately displayed the urgency of getting onto the scoreboard and easily dominated the first five minutes but had nothing to show for it, although at the other end midfielder Edmar was able to test Silvo Proto between the Anderlecht sticks. The Belgian keeper however dove to his left and managed to grab the attempt that the Brazilian whacked too hard into the ground.
With the constant Mauves' attacks, especially in the 9th minute, defender Edwin Ouon had been getting away with too many scrapes in the Cypriot final third. This time however Polish referee Marcin Borski only gave him a tongue lashing but no booking.
Less than a minute later Mbokani collected the ball in the center circle and held off his defender, then played it through to Tom De Sutter however, the Belgian's shot flew wide of Matais Degra's post.
In the 13th minute Dede, sporting number 77 like an NFL linebacker, brought down Kanu NFL style. Lucas Biglia took the kick and picked out Mbokani at the far post. The Congolese headed it back in right in front of goal but there was nobody there except a half dozen guys in yellow Limassol shirts.
Mbokani had a chance of his own a minute later off a throw-in when he bore down on goal. Fighting off the defender, Degra slid to the ground and picked the ball off of the striker's foot before he was able to pull the trigger.
At the other end in the 20th minute Limassol's Monteiro got a shot off, making a half chance as the Cypriots tried to add a bit of their own pressure. The shot was well off target and les Mauves went back on the offensive.
A shot at the half hour mark could have gone better for the home team when Guillaume Gillet used his head to get the ball to Mbokani. The Congolese then played it through for the onrushing Kanu but it went too wide to trouble the Limassol shot stopper.
The Cypriots pushed forward and a shot ended up in the netting on the wrong side. As Proto picked up the ball for the goal kick, the game was stopped for the fourth time due to one of the visitor's rolling around on the ground in pain.
Kanu then had another opportunity but yet again the ball from his Congolese team mate that found teh Brazilian was hit half heartedly from inside the D and the Argentinean keeper had no trouble picking it up.
Minutes later yet another Cypriot ended up on the ground holding his face and knee in what was obviously the team's strategy - pretend you're hurt and roll around in animated pain.
Les Mauves just couldn't seem to buy a goal when again an opportunity was thrown out with yesterday's French fries as Gillet's pass to Tom De Sutter was blown from 7 yards out.
In first half stoppage time were awarded a corner kick after captain marios Nikolaou deflected De Sutter's cross. Biglia played the ball short to Kljestan, who played it back to be whipped into the box. Marcin Wasilewski's close range shot was blocked by a pair of defenders and the next shot was blasted into the heavens.
The second half started as the first did with business as usual for Anderlecht guys who were throwing everything forward for that goal. The visitors however, also came out with a bit more of a positive approach.
In the 50th minute, Kljestan, who played a solid game in the midfield with Lucas Biglia jumped into a challenge with Cape Verde defender Carlitos and it was the American who came out on top and sent the ball forward for yet another Anderlecht attack.
De Sutter blew another chance inside the box with a header when he put it over the crossbar. This was immediately followed by yet another Cypriot rolling around in pain.
As time went on les Mauves showed their frustrations on the field with a needless foul by Wasilewski, as they let Limassol get deeper and deeper into their final third. The Cypriot fans chants were all that could be heard from the visitor's end as they hoped for the eventual ticket to the group stages.
The 25 minutes left were just too many however to hold out.
And it was not to be for the champions of the island in the Mediterranean Sea. The pressure eventually paid off and when Massimo Bruno came on in the 74th minute for Gillet, he was the one to provide the assist to Mbokani, who charged into the box and blasted hard and true, giving Degra no chance.
The second goal came seconds before the clock struck 90 minutes and this one was also down to a substitute, Iakovenko. It was the club's talisman Mbokani who bore down on goal but instead of the shot picked out the Ukraine, who went cross goal to bury it into the back of the net.
The Brussels boys kept their composure and fought off a desperate AEL Limassol team to register the victory and passage into the Champions League group stages.
Sacha Kljestan came out to talk to Yanks Abroad after the game and team celebrations.
"It was definitely a bit nerve wracking as the time went on," the Californian said. "Just before we scored our first goal I was a bit worried that we weren't going to get one."
The midfielder didn't feel that the Cypriot time wasting really hindered Anderlecht's performance.
"We dominated the game. We expected them to be a very organized defensive team and try to counter attack and that is precisely what they did."
"I feel like we won a lot of balls in midfield. We were playing the majority of the game in their half and our defenders stepped up. They had one clear chance in the first half and I think that was it. We played really well tonight."
"They started wasting quite a bit of time early but it was expected. After we scored our first and second goals, I said let's throw it back at them a little bit. It was a crazy last 10 minutes but we fought through it."
As for Oguchi Onyewu's ex-team mate at Standard Liege, Kljestan had nothing but praise for Mbokani.
"He was amazing tonight. He made some beautiful plays. That's what stars are made of!"
Kljestan and the entire Royal Sporting Club Anderlecht nation will now await Thursday's draw to see who they will be pitted against in Champions League action.