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<-Page <-Team Wed 09 Aug 2006 Hearts 1 AEK Athens 2 Team-> Page->
<-Srce <-Type Scotsman ------ Report Type-> Srce->
Valdas Ivanauskas <-auth Barry Anderson auth-> Nicolai Vollquartz
Aguiar Bruno [P Kapetanos 88] ;[N Liberopoulos 93]
41 of 066 Saulius Mikoliunas 61 E H

Valdas: we're not done yet


VALDAS IVANAUSKAS today remained defiant on his team's prospects of doing the improbable and scoring twice in Athens in a fortnight's time.

Hearts have been landed with a virtually impossible mission in Greece after two goals in the final four minutes by AEK Athens at Murrayfield last night condemned Ivanauskas and his players to a 2-1 defeat in the first leg of their Champions League final qualifier.

Stavros Tziortziopoulos and Nikos Liberopoulos overturned Saulius Mikoliunas' 62nd-minute opener and, in addition to the concession of two away goals, Hearts will be minus midfielder Bruno Aguiar for the second leg after he was dismissed for two bookable offences.

Nevertheless, Ivanauskas has come out bullishly to declare that the battle for a place in the Champions League's lucrative group phase is far from finished.

"We have two weeks time to prepare for the next leg. Okay, that will be a difficult game, but we will have chances over there. We must go and win," said the Lithuanian, who lamented the absence of a killer second goal by Hearts to supplement Mikoliunas' strike.

"Who knows just how difficult it will be, but we will worry about that in two weeks' time," he continued. "The Greeks were a good, solid and experienced team. Maybe the first half was not good from our players' point of view but we were playing a solid side.

"After we scored we had chances to get a second but didn't manage it. I think the performance was normal for a European game. We scored the first goal and we had opportunities for more. I think, if it were not for the mistake from the referee, we would have won the match. The sending off cost us the game."

Aguiar was dismissed upon his second yellow card in the 66th minute, which was issued by Danish referee Nikolai Vollquartz for an underarm throwing away of the ball after a niggly foul on AEK full-back Martin Pautasso by Neil McCann. The Portuguese had been cautioned in the first half for a late challenge on Nikos Liberopoulos.

"Bruno's first yellow card was understandable and then the ref showed a second yellow, which meant red automatically. But there was no tackle so I do not understand," said Ivanauskas. "With a full team the game wasn't easy for us, and it became more so after Bruno was sent off. He was very angry after the match and he told me he felt the sending off was for nothing.

"When you give your all and a small decision like Bruno's sending off changes the game, then it leaves the players very angry. I have been involved in European games for a long time and if the referee says it's a red card then it's a red card, but for me the decision was a mistake."

It is understood Hearts are unlikely to appeal the red card.

Ivanauskas admitted his surprise at AEK's frantic start to the match, which took place in front of Hearts' second biggest European crowd of 32,459. He also denied having an angry exchange with AEK Athens coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer at full-time, when he was seen motioning the Spaniard up the tunnel for a chat away from the public eye.

"All I said to him was 'congratulations', so there is no problem," said the Hearts coach.

Ferrer was gracious in victory, commenting: "We still have 90 minutes to play and we will respect Hearts. It is true that we have an advantage but we must use this in the next game. I try to transmit a positive attitude to my players in every game, and part of that is showing respect."

Meanwhile, midfielder Lee Johnson has completed his move to Bristol City, where he will again join forces with father, Gary.

Taken from the Scotsman

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