Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho was full of praise for APOEL Nicosia after three late goals gave his side a 3-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg win.
Madrid were largely frustrated by the minnows from Cyprus until the late goals of Karim Benzema and Kaka, the latter a substitute alongside Marcelo, both replacements weighing in with assists.
Mourinho was happy with the win - and three away goals - but acknowledged the effort of his opponents, who operate on a fraction of the budget that the likes of Real.
"It took us a long time to open the score but that had a lot to do with our opponents who played very well," Mourinho said.
"They don't have the outstanding individual talent that other teams in the Champions League have but in terms of organisation and character they are fantastic.
"They created many difficulties and I think we won the game because we played well. What they did was fantastic, and we had to play at optimum strength to win, they were fantastic on defence and they deserve our respect."
APOEL coach Ivan Jovanovic said his side had become frustrated after the first goal.
"The truth is we were well organised, at least on defence, but certainly, some disappointment set in after the 75th minute. There was some disappointment and I would say after the goal we lost some concentration," he told Sigma Sports.
APOEL chairman Phivos Erotocritou said APOEL were proud of their achievements.
"We have our head held high. It has been really special, we are very proud that we got to this point. It is certainly not a result to be ashamed of, we are very very proud we got to this point."
The second leg in Madrid takes place next Wednesday.
- Sports & Recreation