AEK Hold on to Advance to Cup Final
GREEK SOCCER CUP - SEMI-FINALS (LEG 2)
|AEK||0 - 1||Olympiacos|
|(*2 - 2)
AEK Athens clinched a place in the Greek Cup final on Wednesday despite losing 1-0 to Olympiacos in the second leg of their semi-final clash at the Olympic Stadium, going through on away goals after the tie ended with a 2-2 aggregate scoreline.
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AEK were a shadow of the team which won 2-1 in the first leg but looked like they might hold on for a goalless draw until Jacques Romao scored with eight minutes left to silence the AEK fans and set up a nail-biting finish to what had been an instantly forgettable contest.
The result is a blow to Olympiacos coach Takis Lemonis, who was hoping to guide the Erythrolefki to another domestic double after clinching the league title last weekend with one match to spare.
Olympiacos arrived at OAKA fresh from clinching their 44th league title while AEK, who will battle for a European place via the playoffs, were looking to finish the job they started with their stunning 2-1 win at the Georgios Karaiskakis two weeks ago.
After the smoke from the flairs faded both teams began confidently, Olympiacos’ midfielder Kostas Fortounis forcing AEK goalkeeper Giannis Anestis into a low save early on before Sergio Araujo responded with a surging run which brought a roar from the home fans only for a heavy touch to see him denied a shooting opportunity.
The tempo died down after the early flurry of activity as both teams struggled to get their passing game going and with niggly fouls creeping into the play all over the pitch. There was a glimpse of goal for AEK on 28 minutes but Lazaros Papadopoulos’ volleyed effort was saved comfortably by Stefano Kapino.
Olympiacos responded through Marko Marin five minutes later, the German jinking his way across the AEK box before firing a low, diagonal shot which fizzed just past Anestis’ right post. The Red and Whites threatened again on the stroke of half-time, with Esteban Cambiasso stinging the palms of AEK custodian Anestis with a volley just before half-time.
If the first half was a low-key affair then the second half did not improve much, with AEK seemingly content to sit back and hold on while Olympiacos lacked ideas to break them down.
The hosts were then denied what would have been a breakthrough on the 70th minute mark when captain Petros Mantalos’ curling free-kick was brilliantly tipped around the post by Kapino.
Just when it seemed the match would peter out, Mantalos’ misplaced pass was collected by Romao, who played a neat one-two with Oscar Cardozo before finishing clinically with a low strike past Anestis.
The goal set up a tense finish but AEK held on and Huge Almerida wasted a great chance to equalise in the last minute when he was sent clean through on goal.
There was late controversy when AEK goalkeeper Anestis was dismissed in the closing seconds after he picked up a second yellow card for time wasting. Since AEK had used all its substitutions, Almeida went in goal. Romao then followed Anestis off when he received a second yellow for elbowing.
AEK now face the winner of the other semi-final tie between Panathinaikos and PAOK, who meet on Thursday at the Toumba in Salonica for their second leg encounter with the Greens holding a handsome 3-0 advantage from the first match.