AEK keen to repeat history against Milan
AEK host Milan at OAKA on Thursday night, and the Enosi will be keen to repeat their exploits from the last time the two sides met in the Greek capital…
AEK fans have experienced many memorable nights in the club’s European adventures, but perhaps the most memorable is that time the almighty AC Milan came to Athens in November of 2006. An exquisite Julio Cesar free-kick would be the difference on that night; a result AEK’s faithful certainly wouldn’t mind replicating on Thursday night.
Milan arrived in Greece in 2006 as firm leaders in Champions League Group H, while AEK’s campaign up until that November night had the Enosi well adrift their Italian guests. While the scene on Thursday night bears some similarities, the situation in the group is far different as an AEK win on Thursday night could see the Athenians take the reins atop the group.
The reality surrounding Thursday’s clash at OAKA could speak to AEK’s evolution since the last time Milan visited the Greek capital, but it more seemingly speaks to the downfall of Milan since the glory days of Kaka, Paolo Maldini, and Andrea Pirlo.
A very different core of players represent Milan now, meaning the odds ahead of Thursday’s game are as definitive as they would have been prior to that game in 2006. Milan had defeated AEK 3-0 on Matchday 1 in 2006, but the clash in Athens would be a very different story.
Nearly 60,000 supporters packed OAKA that night hoping their side would give a better showing than the reverse fixture in Milan. AEK fans would get better than what they bargained for as AEK would pull-off one of the shocks of the group stage to beat Milan 1-0 in the Greek capital.
Former AEK ‘keeper Stefano Sorrentino, an Italian national, would stone-wall many of his compatriots including reputable Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi who had a handful of clear-cut chances only to be denied by Sorrentino’s acrobatics.
Sorrentino’s heroics would be rewarded at the other end of the pitch shortly after the first half hour as AEK earned a free-kick in a dangerous position just outside the Milan box. Cesar was joined by legendary AEK striker Nikos Liberopoulos as both brainstormed how to beat Milan’s Brazilian ‘keeper Dida; though echoes inside OAKA suggested the Liberopoulos should resist taking the free-kick.
Who knows if Liberopoulos heard those protests, but the Greek striker would oblige. Cesar, who actually won the free-kick, collected his thoughts before curling a delicious set-piece around the wall and beyond a flat-footed Dida. OAKA would erupt in celebration, showing just how monumental that goal was.
Perhaps the only bigger cheer that night was the one that greeted the final whistle as the OAKA crowd erupted once again with plenty of thanks coming Sorrentino’s way thanks to an encore of his heroics in the second half.
AEK would eventually clinch a berth in the UEFA Cup with a third place finish in the group, while Milan would go on to win the group and reach the Final of the competition proper that following May.
Coincidentally, the 2007 Final was hosted by OAKA, and six months on from their first trip to the Greek capital, Milan would reverse their fortunes. Inzaghi would strike twice as Milan would edge Liverpool in the continental showpiece; further sweetening AEK’s memories of that autumn night in November.