AEK’s Champions League dream in tatters after defeat
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - 3RD QUALIFYING ROUND (LEG 1)
|AEK||0 - 2||CSKA Moscow|
AEK Athens’ much-anticipated return to European action was torpedoed by Russian giants CSKA Moscow on Tuesday as the Yellow and Blacks were beaten 2-0 at the Olympic Stadium in the first leg of their Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Alan Dzageov’s close-range header on the stroke of half-time following a corner against the run of play was followed by Pontus Wernbloom’s towering headed goal 11 minutes after the break for a well-drilled CSKA side.
And despite their manful efforts in a determined second half display, AEK could not find an equalizing goal and now have a mountainous task in the return leg next Wednesday in Moscow if they are to reach the playoffs.
It was always going to be a tough night against a strong CSKA side lead by Viktor Goncharenko, and so it proved to be in a match of few scoring chances, although it was the hosts who looked the more threatening side in the opening 45 minutes.
Manolo Jimenez’s team went into the match looking to celebrate the confirmation that the club have been granted planning permission for their new stadium to be built back on the site of their former Nikos Goumas stadium home in Nea Filadelfeia.
But a handful of half-chances were not enough to seriously trouble home goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, who was though grateful when AEK’s Lazaros Christodolopoulos passed up his team’s best chance midway through the first half.
Lazaros was played in on the edge of the penalty area but dwelled far too long on the ball when he could have got a shot away with only Akinfeev to beat before Aleksei Berezutski cleared the ball from under the AEK man’s toes with a last-ditch lunge.
AEK huffed and puffed their way toward CSKA’s goal again at the start of the second half but rarely got a lear sight of goal, with the ineffective Marko Livaja a peripheral figure as a lone striker.
Then came what felt like a real sucker punch for the hoem fans in the 56th minute when another innocuously conceded corner brought a second goal for CSKA.
Vitinho did the damage with a second assist, curling over a cross which was perfectly met by Wernbloom, who rose highest to head home past the flailing dive of Ioannis Anestis in the home goal.
AEK continued to drive forward but were found wanting in the last third, resorting mainly to speculative long range efforts from substitutes Hugo Almeida and Viktor Klonaridis, and Petros captain Mantalos, who had a poor night by his standards in his advanced left midfield role.