Power shift in Nicosia forming as Omonoia gain momentum in title race


For the first time in a decade, the balance of power in Nicosia is (ever so slightly) moving back to the Green half as Omonoia are within a point of top spot, following an impressive run of form.

Five wins from eight – including victories over Anorthosis and AEK Larnaca has the “Omoniades” dreaming of the title returning. In addition, six clean sheets emphasise how cohesive defensively Henning Berg’s men have become and, believe it or not, only two penalties have been conceded – perhaps the club’s official complaint over questionable refereeing decisions going against them have been noted.

The predatory instincts of “Non Stop Matt” Derbyshire has put the former Blackburn striker into double figures, while Thiago Santos is in top form with four goals and five assists.

Berg’s decision to operate the Brazilian wide left with licence to roam in the middle has paid dividends. Jordi Gomez’s influence cannot be underestimated either. The former Wigan man has been instrumental as of late, scoring a high pressure penalty against AEK and assisting from a corner that turned out to be the winner against title rivals Anorthosis.

A sub par performance in the 2-1 defeat at Apollon Limassol is the only blot on Omonoia’s copybook in this run of games; a defeat that possibly would have been avoided had it not been for a 79th minute howler from goalkeeper Fabiano.

Joao Pedro’s cross from the right looked to be a routine catch for the ‘keeper but he misjudged the flight of the ball, dropping it into the path of Facundo Pereyra who bundled it home. Fabiano’s form, coupled with long term injuries to Konstantinos Panagi and Francis Uzoho, meant Omonoia had to dip into the transfer market for cover.

In came former Manchester City goalkeeper and Romania international Costel Pantilimon on loan until the end of the season. Pantilimon fell down the pecking order at Nottingham Forest but the 6 ft 6 shot stopper has the experience and ability to be a vital cog in Omonoia’s charge for a domestic double.

One point could have been three or zero against APOEL as Omonoia missed a host of chances before Adam Lang conceded an 86th minute penalty. Fortunately, the champions missed from the spot and honours were even.

Berg’s tactical versatility has seen Omonoia line up with various systems. His 4-2-3-1 has worked very well throughout the season, while a 4-4-2 against AEK and 3-5-2 in the Nicosia derby made it extremely difficult for their opponents to break down.

One key ingredient in each system is the swashbuckling runs from the fullbacks. Jan Lecjaks, Charalampos Mavrias and Tomas Hobocan’s overlapping runs cause havoc, and their deliveries from wide areas have contributed to numerous goals.

Momentum and depth are key if Omonoia are to regain the title and the departures of Hen Ezra and Demetris Christofi in January left the club a little short.

Signing Marios Stylianou from Anorthosis reinforces the defensive options and will certainly be called upon when fatigue finally creeps in for the older heads. Christofi’s departure left a bit of a bitter taste in the mouths of some fans. The player’s alleged threats to take legal action if the club refused to cancel his contract was never going to sit right with those who fought tooth and nail with the club to re-sign him from Sion back in 2015.

Midtjyland’s Nigerian forward David Akintola has arrived on loan and the 24 year old’s Champions League and Europa League experience, and eye for goal, could be the difference between winning the title or missing out. Akintola is athletic, quick and has an eye for goal. His hold up play and awareness will only benefit the likes of Bautheac, Thiago, Ortega, Derbyshire and – of course – the full backs.


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