Gifted Livaja in superb form for AEK
It’s been a turbulent start to the 2019/2020 season for AEK, but that hasn’t stopped Marko Livaja from showing his undoubted talent. AGONAsport investigates.
Few people will dispute the opinion that Livaja is one of the most talented players in the Super League. Since joining AEK in the summer of 2017, the Croatian forward has been a key player for the Kitrinomavri, playing a big role in the Super League triumph and the return to the UEFA Champions League group stage. Last season, his tricky temperament let him down on a regular basis, but the 26-year-old has started the 2019/2020 campaign with real intent.
Six games, four goals, one assist. Impressive statistics indeed. In the first match of the season against Universitatea Craiova in the UEFA Europa League, then AEK boss Miguel Cardoso initially left Livaja on the bench, but the Croat entered proceedings in the first half after Viktor Klonaridis received an injury. Livaja subsequently inspired AEK to victory, dishing out a clever assist for Petros Mantalos’ goal before scoring the second marker himself:
His difficult relationship with Cardoso was made public in the second leg against Craiova. With 59 minutes on the clock, Cardoso took the decision to substitute Livaja, and the latter gave the Portuguese manager a deathly stare before walking down the tunnel instead of sitting on the bench. AEK played terribly in Athens as the match ended all square at 1-1.
Livaja was included in the starting line-up to play Trabzonspor in the third qualifying round. Once again, AEK gave a dismal performance as they contrived to lose 3-1 at the empty Olympic Stadium, but Livaja did open the scoring at point blank range. He was one of few AEK players who competed with enthusiasm and energy:
The gifted Croatian striker was at it again in the second match against Trabzonspor. Livaja broke the deadlock midway through the first half in Turkey, dispossessing a Trabzonspor defender and gently lifting the ball over the emerging goalkeeper. AEK - playing under the leadership of Nikos Kostenoglou after Cardoso received the sack - were much improved and earned plenty of plaudits for their brave showing:
Both AEK and Livaja continued their rapid rise last weekend. Trips to Tripoli in the Super League are never easy, but displaying character in a thrilling encounter, AEK recovered from an early conceded goal to emerge victorious 3-2. Livaja scored the second AEK goal with an accurate attempt, and when the ball hit the net, he celebrated with the supporters by ripping off his shirt and climbing onto the fence. A celebration which instantly drew comparisons to Demis Nikolaidis:
Livaja’s infectious passion for the club is rekindling memories of the triumphant 2017/2018 season. Of course, we’re only in September and AEK still have a lot of work to do with Kostenoglou at the helm, but Livaja is ready to be a leading player for the Enosi once again. Not many players in the Super League boast his level of pure flair and talent.