AEK ready for Celtic with excellent record against Scottish opposition
AEK Athens and Celtic will meet for the first time, however the Kitrinomavri do boast happy memories of playing Scottish clubs in the past. AGONAsport takes a closer look.
Watch LIVE from AGONAsport AEK's first leg matchup against Celtic in UEFA Champions League qualifying on Wednesday, August 8th. Details here.
On Wednesday, reigning Super League winners AEK travel to Glasgow for the first leg of the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round against Celtic, aiming to make a statement in Europe’s showcase competition. The opponents aren’t the easiest, but if previous results are anything to go by, AEK can have real confidence. Gamers, be sure to bet on football and all the Champions League action here.
In four knockout European ties, the Athenian club have always emerged on the winning side, defeating Rangers (1994), Hibernian (2001), Hearts (2006) and Dundee United (2010) and only losing once in Scotland in four outings. Let’s analyse AEK’s games against Scottish opposition:
August 10, 1994. AEK - Rangers - 2:0, UEFA Champions League qualifying round
24 years ago, AEK played Celtic’s arch-rivals Rangers, taking on the Scots in the sole qualifying round of the Champions League. Hosting the first leg in Athens, the Kitrinomavri had the opportunity to build up a solid advantage ahead of the trip to Scotland, and they made it count at the historic Nikos Goumas Stadium.
Dimitris Saravakos opened the scoring with a superb strike from distance on 44 minutes, before the same player doubled AEK’s lead in the second half when pouncing upon his own rebound to send the home fans in Nea Filadelfeia wild.
August 24, 1994. Rangers - AEK - 0:1, UEFA Champions League qualifying round
Having won the first match 2:0, the Greeks were in pole position heading into the return in Glasgow, duly breezing past their opponents and qualifying for the Champions League group stages. On the brink of half time, Toni Savevski completed a flowing play inside the penalty area, in turn ending the tie as a contest.
AEK took the sting out of the match and celebrated a 3:0 aggregate triumph, but in Group D, the team only picked up two points in six games against Ajax, AC Milan and Salzburg.
September 20, 2001. AEK - Hibernian - 2:0, UEFA Cup first round
Back in 2001, the Enosis were paired up with Edinburgh outfit Hibernian in the first round of the UEFA Cup, achieving a positive result in the opening game in Nea Filadelfeia. For the most part, it was a tight game between two evenly matched sides, but AEK eventually broke the deadlock after 54 minutes with Vasilis Tsiartas converting a spot kick. Not long later, talismanic striker Demis Nikolaidis headed a looping cross beyond the stranded Hibernian goalkeeper, giving AEK a healthy victory in Athens.
September 27, 2001. Hibernian - AEK - 3:2, UEFA Cup first round
Despite leading 2:0 from the first match, AEK were to receive a shock. Roared on by their passionate supporters, Hibernian took the game to AEK at Easter Road, netting twice through two point blank range finishes from Luna to drag the match into an extra 30 minutes.
Thankfully for AEK, that’s where Vasilis Tsiartas stepped up to the plate. The attacking midfielder fired a low, cutting attempt past the goalkeeper, gifting AEK a vital away goal. Tsiartas then levelled the match on the night as his swinging corner evaded everyone at the near post. David Zitelli did score with a stunning shot for Hibernian, but AEK held on to win 4:3 on aggregate.
In the end, AEK were knocked out of the tournament in the fourth round by Internazionale 3:5.
August 9, 2006. Hearts - AEK - 1:2, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
Considered favourites, the Athenians displayed excellent football in Edinburgh, dominating for long periods in the Scottish capital. However, Hearts forward Saulius Mikoliunas jammed the ball over the line after the initial shot had cannoned off the upright, handing the hosts a lead against the run of play.
Nevertheless, AEK launched a dramatic comeback in the final minutes, hitting the jackpot twice in the dying moments. Pantelis Kapetanos powered a pinpoint header into the right corner to equalise and Nikos Liberopoulos’ hopeful shot was deflected into his own net by Christophe Berra.
August 23, 2006. AEK - Hearts - 3:0, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
Hearts needed to score at least two goals in Athens to maintain hope of progressing, but they certainly didn’t help their own cause, seeing Austin McCann and Julien Brellier sent off. In full control of proceedings, AEK duly punished their weakened opponents, striking three goals in the last 11 minutes. Julio Cesar confidently dispatched a penalty, Nikos Liberopoulos planted a header in and Cesar showed silky skills with an individual marker to complete a 3:0 win. Interestingly, current Celtic starting goalkeeper Craig Gordon participated in these two matches for Hearts.
AEK earned eight points in Group H to take third place with memorable victories over AC Milan and Lille.
August 19, 2010. Dundee United - AEK - 0:1, UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
Algerian striker Rafik Djebbour was the hero for AEK in Scotland, tapping in Ignacio Scocco’s low cross from the left wing within the first 11 minutes of play against Dundee United. It promised to be a tough test of AEK’s capabilities, but the club were never troubled by Dundee, calmly holding on to the 1:0 scoreline and putting themselves in the box seat for the second game in Greece.
August 26, 2010. AEK - Dundee United - 1:1, UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
Instead of playing in their familiar surroundings of the Olympic Stadium, AEK were forced into hosting Dundee United at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus due to the poor quality of the OAKA surface, and no Enosis fans were allowed to enter the arena. Still, that didn’t affect AEK as Papa Bouba Diop drew first blood.
Dundee United’s Jonathan Daly outwitted the AEK goalkeeper when clean through and the Scots missed a golden chance to win the match in the latter stages, but AEK kept them at bay to advance to the group stages.
In Group G, the Kitrinomavri could only come in third place behind Zenit Saint Petersburg and Anderlecht.