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Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Roddy Forsyth auth-> Nicolai Vollquartz
Aguiar Bruno [P Kapetanos 88] ;[N Liberopoulos 93]
36 of 066 Saulius Mikoliunas 61 E H

Hearts throw away golden lead at the death

By Roddy Forsyth
(Filed: 10/08/2006)

Match details

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Heart of Midlothian (0) 1 AEK Athens (0) 2

Hearts' hopes of reaching the group stage of the Champions League were all but crushed after AEK Athens left Murrayfield with a merited victory in last night's third-round qualifier.

Craig Gordon
Agony: Craig Gordon after AEK Athens struck in injury time

Saulius Mikoliunas' alert second-half strike gave Hearts the lead but a header by Pantelis Kapetanos 90 seconds from the end of normal time, plus a deflected shot by Nikolaos Lymperopolous in injury time, inflicted tremendous damage.

Hearts were afflicted by an unexpected problem before they kicked a ball, due to a respiratory virus which ruled out Julien Brellier and Deividas Censauskas. With Bruno Aguiar still available, the Tynecastle coach, Valdas Ivanauskas, was able to cover Brellier's holding role, but he was forced to give Christos Karipidis his debut in place of Cesnauskas.

AEK, meanwhile, had already posted notice of their likely obduracy by refusing to leave the Murrayfield pitch when their allotted training time had come to an end the previous evening.

After a polite request they were told firmly to leave and when this second attempt failed, the problem was solved by turning on the pitch sprinklers.

It was soon raining men in yellow all around the Hearts penalty box as AEK started the contest at full pelt, to the bemusement of their opponents.

The first half virtually consisted of a catalogue of Greek chances, mostly from corners but also from open play whenever Hearts gave away possession and the Tynecastle side were tormented in particular by the mesmeric Julio Cesar.

When the Brazilian forced Robbie Neilson to head behind his own goal at close range inside the first minute, the tone was set.

Within 60 seconds Takis Fyssas had to turn the ball away for a corner at the back post and from Cesar's delivery Traianos Dellas headed off the crossbar.

The bar saved Hearts again as half-time approached, this time when yet another Cesar corner skipped off his head at the near post.

Between times AEK manufactured a procession of opportunities and the opening period became an ordeal for Hearts, badly missing the injured Paul Hartley.

Inevitably, it was Cesar who came close to putting AEK ahead three minutes before the break when Steven Pressley misplaced a clearance straight to him.

There seemed no chance that he could get a shot on target from there, but with a wicked dipping effort, Cesar forced Craig Gordon into a full-stretch tip.

Yet, as they trudged to the dressing room at half-time, there was a flicker of hope for Hearts. Not only had they survived the AEK onslaught, but in their only two cohesive attacks they had sliced open their opponents.

So it was that Hearts' first real thrust of the second half, on the hour, hit pay dirt. Edgaras Jankauskas forced an opening to feed Roman Bednar, whose swirling shot beat Stefano Sorrentino but came back off the post.

Mikoliunas reached the rebound first to beat the goalkeeper with his low drive. Hearts were then reduced to 10 men when Aguiar was shown a second yellow card for a soft foul.

Match details

Hearts (4-4-2): Gordon; Neilson, Pressley, Berra, Fyssas; Mikoliunas, Karipidis (Jankauskas 54), Aguiar, McCann; Pospisil (Elliot 82), Bednar (Wallace 68). Subs: Banks (g), Beslija, Makela, Mole. Booked: Aguiar, McCann. Sent off: Aguiar.
AEK Athens (4-4-2): Sorrentino; Pautasso (Tziortzapoulos 80), Dellas, Cirillo, Georgeas; Lagos (Lakis 54), Emerson, Ivic, Julio Cesar; Lymperopoulos, Kapetanos. Subs: Chiotis, Papaststhopoulos, Moras, Soares, Tozser. Booked: Georgeas.
Referee: N Vollquartz (Denmark).

Taken from

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