JOSE: JOVANOVIC HAS WORKED WONDERS
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho said he would be hard pushed to improve on the job done by Ivan Jovanovic at Champions League surprise package APOEL Nicosia.
The Cypriot side's giant-killing run in this season's tournament has so far accounted for Lyon, Porto and Shakhtar Donetsk, although Madrid's prized scalp is unlikely to follow suit after the Spanish side ran out 3-0 winners in Tuesday night's quarter-final first leg in Nicosia.
Mourinho praised the job done by his opposite number and, despite his status as one of the hottest properties in football management, admitted that even he could not wring any more performance out of the current APOEL squad.
"APOEL made things very difficult for us and we won because we played well," Mourinho told the post-match press conference. "They were strong in defence and showcased great team spirit.
"I'm sure I wouldn't do much better than Jovanovic on this team. We had to do our best to win.
"I think APOEL are doing a fantastic job. We knew the match would be complicated for them.
"APOEL made it difficult for us because they have a very serious and hard working team."
Mourinho labelled APOEL as the "most important team" left in the competition, and promised his side will take them seriously in the return leg at the Bernabeu, despite the fact the minnows will need to score at least three times without reply to have any chance of progressing.
"I would like to show them as much respect at the Bernabeu because they are the most important team in this Champions League," Mourinho said.
"Any of the other seven teams are pursuing something they've achieved before, but APOEL have never won the title."
The hosts battled gamely for much of the match but were finally breached in the 74th minute when the impressive Kaka set up Karim Benzema before the Brazilian tucked away fellow substitute Marcelo's excellent cutback eight minutes later.
Benzema's second gave the scoreline an emphatic look, and the France international said: "It was a very difficult game, especially in the first half. The game improved after half-time and we earned a very important victory. We will keep it up in the return leg.
"I had a very good chance to score before I netted my first, but I tallied two in the end and that's what matters.
"This is an important victory, but this isn't over yet. We want to give a good performance before our fans in the return leg.
"APOEL are a very tough opponent and made things hard for us. We did very well and took a major step towards winning the tie."
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