Champions League reaction

Jovanovic ecstatic after qualifying

November 24, 2011

APOEL Nicosia coach Ivan Jovanovic confessed to being "the happiest man in the world'' after guiding a Cypriot club into the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time.

APOEL
GettyImagesAPOEL's players celebrate their progress to the next stage.

APOEL's backs-to-the-wall goalless draw at Zenit St Petersburg proved enough for a place in the knockout stages as they emerged from a pool which also included experienced European campaigners Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk.

Jovanovic said: "I am the happiest man in the world right now. We have achieved something which three months ago we had no right to even dream of. This is a crowning moment for all the effort we have made since the summer, a crowning moment for all those associated with the club.

"We still have a lot of targets and motivations in front of us right now. We said in the summer that we need to prove what we can do on the pitch. And we are deservedly through with a game to spare. The fact that we are up there with the best 16 in Europe is an even bigger motivation for us.

"Our aim now is to secure first place in the group and to put on a good show once again when we play Shakhtar in Nicosia.''

Midfielder Constantinos Charalambides was still coming to terms with the size of APOEL's achievement.

He told UEFA: "This is the biggest day and the biggest moment in the history of this football club. I don't think anyone has really realised what has happened, especially as we were in such a tough group.

"We knew coming into the game that we would be playing against a team that likes to attack. Of course they wanted to win, which is normal, but defending is also part of the game and especially in our case, as this is the result we needed.

"However, over the course of the group we have not always looked to defend. Normally we try to attack and show everyone what we can do. This is the greatest moment of everyone's life in our team tonight.''

Charalambides' midfield partner Gustavo Manduca added: "This night for me is a miracle.

"The game was tough. The cold was something we weren't used to but as time went on we grew more confident.

"I never imagined that this success would happen when I arrived in Cyprus. I always hoped that I could play in the Champions League but to go through is a big plus.''