February 27, 2008. It’s been 4 years, 7 months, and 24 days since we last beat Omonia at home. In the subsequent 9 games we’ve played them at ‘Pap’, our two best results were goalless draws. We haven’t even scored in the last four home games against them. In fact, in the last 17 games at our home ground against the ‘commies’ our record makes for depressing reading: W4-D3-L10, with one of those four wins achieved at a neutral venue. Even during the years we dominated the Cypriot league, wins over them were a rarity. It’s no wonder Omonia fans call ‘Pap’ their ‘holiday home.’
So, what’s with Omonia and ‘Pap’? Hard to explain, but it seems that the gods repeatedly conspire to make us suffer against them. Defensive blunders, biased refereeing, and sheer bad luck always come together when we face them. And if you think I’m exaggerating about the referees, here’s a couple of facts: We had gone 16 years (1994-2010) without being awarded a pen against Omonia (and, of course, we even managed to miss that long-awaited penalty in 2010). Out of the four games between us last season, we had a player sent off in three of them.
That’s why our relatively rare victories over Omonia are so cherished. They are, after all, considered the enemy by most of us, with our ideological and political differences always coming to the fore when we face them. It’s never just about football with Omonia. The away win against Apollon was massively important but, in truth, this is the first really big game of the season. And although we’ve been here before, there are sufficient reasons to go into this game confident we’ll emerge as victors.
Not only are we top of the league but we’ve also got there with three wins on the trot, scoring 7 with none in return in those games. The visitors, on the other hand, currently lie sixth and are seven points adrift, without a win in four games and not having scored once in their last three. In fact, they haven’t scored since the 12th minute against Ethnikos on Matchday 2, which means they’ve gone more than 350 minutes of football without hitting the back of the net.
With Jorge and Shelis fit again, Levy is not expected to change his winning line-up against Apollon much. Skopelitis and Alexa will start in midfield, as the coach prefers their defensive work to the more refined ball-keeping skills of Laban. The only change will be in attack, where either Yitzhaki -now available again after his three-game suspension- or Okkas will replace the injured Calvo on the right.
Refereeing permitting, it will be a fascinating battle. A win this evening will not only leave one of our main rivals 10 points behind so early in the season, but it will also prove that this year, finally, we have a team good enough to seriously challenge for the title. With ‘Pap’ packed to the rafters, Anorthosis fans expect the team to deliver. Cometh the hour…