Xronia Polla AEK...With Eyes on the Cup Final
GREEK SOCCER CUP - SEMI-FINALS (LEG 1)
|Olympiacos||1 - 2||AEK|
AEK Athens are in the driving seat of their Greek Cup semi-final tie with Olympiacos after claiming a hard-earned 1-2 win over the SuperLeague leaders and city rivals in a highly entertaining first leg clash on Thursday. The win comes on the club’s 93rd birthday.
Manolo Jimenez’s impressive side won thanks to goals from Argentine duo Sergio Araujo and Patito Rodriguez, whose goals sandwiched a strike from Olympiacos full-back Diogo Figueiras.
It was a disappointing night for home fans at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Piraeus, with AEK playing the smarter and more effective football in a high tempo match which was also high on quality and competitiveness.
AEK made their attacking intentions clear from the outset, and the home fans were stunned into silence after just six minutes when AEK captain Petros Mantalos picked out the intelligent run of Araujo with a clever free-kick, with the Argentine forward beating Olympiacos goalkeeper Stefano Kapino with a low diagonal first time shot.
The Kitrinomavri continued to threaten the home goal with several half chances going begging, and they were made to pay for their wastefulness when Olympiacos found a way back into the game seven minutes later when Figueiras slotted home after Seba won a header in the box.
Olympiacos were then denied by the woodwork after 22 minutes as German midfielder Marko Marin was the unlucky player not to score in what proved to be a key moment in the match.
AEK continued to look calm and composed in the second half and got the goal their superior play deserved from a corner in the 64th minute. Brazilian defender Rodrigo Galo, who had kept Kostas Fortounis in check for most of the match, swung over a corner which was headed down by Bosnia-Herzegovina defender Ognjen Vranjes into the path of Patito, who swivelled smartly to score with a powerful close-range shot.
There were calls for a handball by the Olympiacos players but that would have been a harsh decision as replays suggested Patito had controlled the ball fairly with his chest before smashing the ball past Kapino.
Olympiacos huffed and puffed until the final whistle but couldn’t find an equaliser, and Takis Lemonis’ side will have to dig very deep to get the result which would see them overturn the tie in two weeks’ time.
AEK boss Jimenez immediately dedicated the victory to the club’s fans in the context of the club celebrating its 93d birthday.
“I’d like to dedicate this win to the AEK fans who today celebrate teh 93rd birthday of this great club,” the Spaniard told reporters. “We must not think we are already through to the final though, nothing is finished yet. We have to show the same spirit and play in the second game and we’ll see what will happen.”
Jimenez’s opposite number Lemonis chose to vent his anger at the match officials, saying: “Other factors played a role which made things difficult for us today. We produced a first-half display whereby under other circumstances we would have been 3-0 or 4-0 ahead but amazingly we found ourselves going into the break at 1-1 because two opportunities ‘disappeared’ - one of them for a non-existent handball. I don’t like to comment on referees but for us there is only frustration today.”