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

Hearts 1 AEK Athens 2

By Ronnie Esplin, PA Sport

Hearts' Champions League aspirations are hanging by a thread after two late goals from AEK Athens in the first leg of their third-round qualifier at Murrayfield.

The home side went ahead in the 61st minute when midfielder Saulius Mikoliunas slammed the ball into the net from close range after Roman Bednar's effort had rebounded off the post.

Four minutes later, Hearts midfielder Bruno Aguiar was sent off for two yellow cards, the second for throwing the ball away after the home side conceded a foul in the middle of the park.

With a minute of normal time remaining, Pantelis Kapetanos flicked a cross by substitute Stavros Tziortziopoulos past the helpless Gordon.

And then, in a cruel finale, Christophe Berra deflected a shot from Nikos Liberopoulos into his own net.

The Edinburgh club had hoped to beat their European attendance record of 37,500 set against Standard Liege at Tynecastle in 1958 but although less than that figure had turned up at the Jambos' adopted stadium Murrayfield, an atmosphere befitting a Champions League game greeted both sides as they emerged from the tunnel.

But it was the slick-moving visitors who started brighter, forcing two corners in as many minutes.

And from Julio Cesar's second effort from the right, Greek striker Liberopoulos crashed his header from six yards against the bar before the ball was eventually scrambled away to safety.

Moments later, Liberopoulos was left free to send a snap-shot from 30 yards whistling over Gordon's crossbar.

The Gorgie side seemed paralysed with nerves but in the 11th-minute, midfielder Mikoliunas offered encouragement when he hammered a left-footed shot from the edge of the box off the near post with the help of a deflection from Athens defender Bruno Cirillo.

But the Greeks were clearly still in control and the subdued home support sat in almost silence as the Tynecastle men tried to stem the tide.

In the 19th minute, Hearts' best move of the game involving midfielder Neil McCann and Takis Fyssas ended with Mikoliunas blazing the ball over the bar from 16 yards out, following the Gorgie defender's cross to the far side of the penalty area.

The Greek side continued to pepper Gordon's goal with shots from distance.

Hearts, who have built their recent success on pace and power, were often chasing shadows as AEK swept the ball around Murrayfield in impressive style.

On the half-hour mark, another Cesar corner from the right caused havoc in the Hearts defence before Berra calmly cleared the danger.

Moments later, only a Steven Pressley block prevented Cesar's angled drive from 12 yards testing Gordon.

Perhaps surprisingly, Hearts coach Valdas Ivanauskas declined the chance to shuffle his side around at the break, opting to give the same 11 players the chance to make amends for their insipid first-half performance.

Most of the traffic continued on its way to the Hearts goal but there must have been some encouragement for the home side because, for all their dominance, the Greek side could not get the goal their superiority deserved.

But in the 61st minute, Murrayfield erupted when the Jambos did get the opening goal.

Substitute Edgaras Jankauskas, on minutes earlier for Karipidis, broke free on the left and, when his pass came to Bednar, the Hearts striker slammed his right-footed shot from 12 yards past Athens keeper Stefano Sorrentino but off the post.

However, Mikoliunas gleefully drove the rebound home from barely eight yards out.

In the 65th minute, Aguiar, booked in the first half, was shown a second yellow card and consequently dismissed for kicking the ball away after the home side had conceded a foul in the middle of the park.

The Greeks continued to dominate and Cesar sent a 25-yard free-kick inches past the post with Gordon rooted to the spot.

In the closing stages Hearts were hanging on in desperation.

But the home side's luck ran out in the 89th minute.

The Greek side scored a deserved equaliser when Kapetanos flicked a cross by substitute Tziortziopoulos past the helpless Gordon and in off the post.

Then deep into the four minutes of injury time Liberopoulos drove a shot at goal which struck Berra and sped past Gordon for the Greek side's second goal.


Hearts Gordon, Neilson, Fyssas, Berra, Pressley, McCann,Mikoliunas, Aguiar, Karipidis (Jankauskas 55),Bednar (Wallace 69), Pospisil (Elliot 82).

Subs Not Used: Banks, Beslija, Makela, Mole.

Sent Off: Aguiar (66).

Booked: Aguiar, McCann.

Goals: Mikoliunas 62.

AEK Athens Sorrentino, Pautasso (Tziortziopoulos 80), Dellas,Cirillo, Georgeas, Emerson, Ivic, Koutroumanos (Lakis 65),Julio Cesar (Tozser 90), Liberopoulos, Kapetanos.

Subs Not Used: Chiotis, Papaststhopoulos, Moras, Soares.

Booked: Georgeas.

Goals: Kapetanos 89, Berra 90 og.

Att: 32,459

Taken from

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