Cardoso: “We lost the ball and our focus”
Following the painful loss to Trabzonspor in the UEFA Europa League, AEK boss Miguel Cardoso explained why the Greeks were beaten, while his opposite number Unal Karaman expressed his pride.
It all started so well. Marko Livaja handed AEK the lead within four minutes, but after a promising opening to the game, the Athenians caved in and completely fell apart defensively. After Jose Sosa had missed a penalty, Caleb Ekuban equalised from point blank range, before the 25-year-old Ghanaian subsequently headed a corner beyond Vasilis Barkas to give Trabzonspor the advantage in the 44th minute. In the driving seat, Trabzonspor calmly controlled the second half with AEK making plenty of avoidable mistakes all over the pitch, and Ekuban sealed his hat trick in the latter stages with a low effort which sneaked under Barkas. A struggling AEK side now have to score at least three goals in Turkey next week.
In the press-conference, Miguel Cardoso shared his emotions: “I thought that we were good in the first half, we had opportunities to score the second goal,” stated Cardoso. “However, during the second half, there were moments when we lost our focus and started to lose the ball. The opponents took full advantage. We must search for stability, instead of constantly having ups and downs. We must learn how to manage games. In the second half, we tried to attack faster than we needed to, in turn losing the ball and our balance. Our balance must improve.”
“I have spoken to the players, and no one is happy at all,” continued the Portuguese manager. “Most importantly, we have another match in 72 hours’ time and we must be ready. Don’t expect me to lose energy. Tomorrow, we must have new energy for the upcoming game. How can we improve? It’s important to remember that there are 90 minutes remaining in this tie, even though I perfectly understand the difficulty of our situation.”
Trabzonspor head coach Unal Karaman expressed his pride in his players’ victory: “Taking into account that this is an away match, the score is great. We feel proud. Unfortunately, we have received some bad news about our soldiers being killed, and they will certainly go to paradise. We played very well today. I congratulate AEK too, because they performed as well as they possibly could. There are two matches in this tie. This was the first and we will try to get a positive result in the second too.”
Caleb Ekuban, the Trabzonspor hero, spoke to Nova Sports after the match ended: “I am really happy to go home with the hat trick. At training, we dedicate a lot of time to set pieces, and although my goals today weren’t as beautiful as the one in the Czech Republic, they’re just as important. Do we have a great advantage? No, not in these kind of matches. You have to play with full concentration in the second leg.”