Late Livaja goal earns AEK dramatic derby draw at Leoforos
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 11
|Panathinaikos||1 - 1||AEK|
|Moledo 10'||Livaja 90'+5'|
Marko Livaja struck a late, late equaliser in added time to rescue a point for AEK as a tense Athens derby against Panathinaikos ended in a 1-1 draw at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium on Sunday.
For 95 minutes it seemed that AEK’s title bid would suffer a setback with the visitors 1-0 down due to Rodrigo Moledo’s first-half-header for the Greens and having had coach Manolo Jimenez sent to the stands for the second match in a row.
But Croatian frontman Livaja came to the rescue in the fifth and last minute of added time with a deflected effort which beat Panathinaikos goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos and secure a point which sent AEK top of the table with 21 points.
AEK are only one point ahead of leaders Atromitos, who travel to PAOK on Monday, while reigning champions Olympiacos are also breathing down their necks on 20 points but in third place on goal difference.
Marinos Ouzounidis’ Panathinaikos just about controlled the flow of this Athens derby game in a tense opening half, with AEK struggling to get numbers forward and to gain any meaningful possession.
The Greens made an especially positive start to proceedings, and were rewarded with the opening goal after 10 minutes when centre-back Moledo headed in a precise free-kick from Swedish midfielder Oscar Hiljemark.
It took AEK 26 minutes to threaten the home side’s Greens’ goal, and when they did goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos did not have to make a save as the Yellows’ Greece Under-21 midfielder Konstantinos Galanopoulos flashed a side-footed shot wide when he should really have done better.
Goalscorer Moledo was substituted eight minutes before half-time due to a minor head injury sustained in an aerial clash with AEK’s Bosnia defender Ognjen Vranješ, with Giorgos Koutroubis taking the Brazilian’s place.
The half-time interval did nothing to change the pattern of play, with chances few and far between as both teams cancelled each other out and were guilty of some scrappy passing.
Lazaros Christodoulopoulos then missed AEK’s best chance to level the match three minutes after the hour mark when he prodded a rebound wide following a sloppy save from his initial shot by Vlachodimos.
Panathinaikos almost doubled their advantage nine minutes from full-time but Guillermo Molins blazed over the bar when sent clean through one-on-one with AEK keeper Giannis Anestis.
AEK then lost coach Jimenez five minutes from the final whistle after the Spaniard was sent to the stands by match referee Lampros Kalogeropoulos for over-zealous protests after a strong challenge by Greens midfielder Lucas Villafanez on AEK defender Helder Lopes. Replays also showed him aiming an unsavory gesture to home fans.
At that point it seemed that might be the final key moment of the match - until Livaja popped up to collect Astrit Ajdarević’s pass and score the crucial late goal.