Two second-half penalties condemned Apoel to their first defeat of their Europa League campaign as they went down to 3-1 away at Young Boys on Thursday night.
The result, combined with Olympiacos’ 4-1 win over Astana in Group B’s other game, leaves Apoel joint-top with the Greek side on six points apiece but with the Swiss now within just two points of them.
Apoel drew first blood on 14 minutes when a fine long pass from Vinicius dissected the Young Boys defence and found Efrem all alone who brought the ball down and then expertly lobbed the keeper for a surprise lead.
The joy was short-lived, however, as Hoarau levelled the game two minutes later. The 32-year-old failed to connect with the initial cross but was on hand when Schick regained possession and picked him out for a close range tap in.
Efrem looked like Apoel’s more dangerous attacking threat and a fine individual run followed by a shot that went just wide proved that on 31 minutes. Despite Young Boys having the majority of possession Apoel looked threatening whenever they strode forward in the first half.
Centre-back Carlao picked up an injury early in the second half and Merkis, his replacement, had an instant impact, though not the type he or his manager would have wanted.
Within seconds of him coming on, he was adjudged to have pulled his man to the ground, though it looked a very harsh call.
Waterman, who was named in the Europa League team of Matchday 2 for his heroics in Piraeus, saved Hoarau’s spot kick only for the ball to fall perfectly back into the path of the striker to make it 2-1.
Apoel, unlike in the first period, never managed to show any signs of getting back in the game, and it looked a matter of time before Young Boys sealed the win.
And on 82 minutes, that moment came when another soft penalty was awarded with Nuno Morais the guilty party. Hoarau stepped up and, this time, made no mistake to put the game beyond reach.
Apoel will not have to wait long to attempt to exact revenge, as their next European game comes against the same side on 3 November in Nicosia.
Results from the other Europa League matches on Thursday:
Inter Milan 1 – Southampton 0
Manchester United 4 – Fenerbahce 1
Feyenoord 1 – Zorya Luhansk 0
Olympiacos 4 – Astana 1
Mainz 1 – Anderlecht 1
St Etienne 1 – FK Qabala 0
AZ Alkmaar 1 – Maccabi Tel Aviv 2
Dundalk 1 – Zenit Petersburg 2
Roma 3 – Austria Vienna 3
Viktoria Plzen 1 – Astra Giurgiu 2
KRC Genk 2 – Athletic Bilbao 0
Rapid Vienna 1 – Sassuolo 1
Celta Vigo 2 – Ajax 2
Standard Liege 2 – Panathinaikos 2
Konyaspor 1 – Sporting Braga 1
Shakhtar Donetsk 5 – KAA Gent 0
Red Bull Salzburg 0 – Nice 1
FK Krasnodar 0 – Schalke 1
FK Qarabag 2 – Paok Salonika 0
Slovan Liberec 1 – Fiorentina 3
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 0 – Sparta Prague 1
Osmanlispor 2 – Villarreal 2
Steaua Bucharest 1 – FC Zurich 1