APOEL Nicosia suffered the first defeat of their Champions League campaign when they went down 2-0 at home to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, but they still ended up celebrating as the result in Porto sent them through as Group G winners.
APOEL, against all odds and with a round to spare, had already become the first Cypriot team to reach the knockout stage, but they were outplayed by the Ukrainian visitors.
Liuz Adriano put Shakhtar ahead from close range after 62 minutes, while substitute Yevhen Seleznyov got the second after 78, tucking in after a shot by Fernandinho rebounded off goalkeeper Urko Pardo.
The home side were without leading duo Ailton and Pinto, out through injury, and they struggled to mount any sustained pressure against the dominant visitors.
The match was briefly interrupted just before the final whistle when two smoke bombs were tossed onto the pitch.
APOEL finished on nine points, level with Zenit St Petersburg after their 0-0 draw at Porto, but the Cypriots top the group courtesy of their head-to-head record against Zenit.
Asked whether it was the “sweetest defeat” of his career, APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said: “There are no sweet defeats, but after seeing our team among the best 16 in Europe then we can understand the achievement.”
“We hope to have the same achievement in the future,” he added.
Jovanovich also praised Shakhtar, saying they had played superbly for their only win of the campaign.