AEK thrilled after dramatic semi-final victory, AEL deflated
AEK Athens advanced to the Greek Cup final in dramatic circumstances on Tuesday, with last minute heroics from Lazaros Christodoulopoulos sending opponents AEL packing.
Coming into the Greek Cup semi-final second leg 1:2 down, AEK had to go flat out against AEL in Athens to retain the chances of completing the double. Deep in stoppage time, it looked as though AEL had done enough to somehow keep AEK at bay, but Lazaros Christodoulopoulos came to the rescue for the Enosis with a stunning acrobatic volley in the dying seconds.
After the final whistle, AEK boss Manolo Jimenez expressed his pride: “I am very proud of my players, and I would have congratulated them with their effort whatever the result,” stated the 54-year old Spaniard. “The way they searched for that goal until the very end deserves real credit. Also, I would like to point out AEL’s performance, we couldn’t open up their defence. Despite the score, I never lost faith in winning, I had a belief that we would win the match. Now, we have to focus on Sunday, when we have a chance to win the championship after 24 years. If the OAKA is full, it will be easier to achieve the required result against Levadiakos.”
Current AEL head coach Sotiris Antoniou was naturally disappointed after conceding in the final minute, revealing that he feels his team should be in the final: “We showed that we’re a strong team and we should be in the final,” said a frustrated Antoniou. “AEK only threatened from set pieces, we were in control of the match’s rhythm. In the first half, AEK didn’t have any space in our half. It’s such a bitter feeling to concede in the 94th minute, but my players did the AEL jersey proud. These guys are young and I’m sure they’ll have the chance to play in a semi-final again.”
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, AEK’s hero with that quite brilliant overhead goal, wasn’t willing to only praise himself: “The whole team are the heroes today, not just me. I want to see my goal on television again, I’ll go home and look at the photos too. This really is a special year, but it’s not over. The fans appreciate what we are giving them, we’re happy to be in the final and want to celebrate the championship on Sunday.”
AEK goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas, who came up for the corner which resulted in Lazaros scoring the winner, described his feelings: “This year, we’ve displayed that we’re a great team and we never gave up,” beamed Barkas. “We have hearts of champions! We’re expecting to see our fans at the stadium on Sunday to celebrate the championship together. In the final against PAOK, we will see who is the best. Overall, since the season began, I don’t think anyone can argue that AEK have been the most stable and consistent team.”