London Hearts Supporters Club

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

Hearts nearly in right place but broken in the end

Ewan Murray at Murrayfield
Thursday August 10, 2006
The Guardian

Scotland's hopes of having dual representation in the group stage of this season's Champions League suffered a significant blow here last night as 10-man Hearts lost the first leg of their final qualifying round to a vastly superior AEK Athens after a pulsating meeting of contrasting styles.

Hearts' aspirations of joining Celtic in the lucrative group phase now hinge on them returning from a perilous trip to Greece's Olympic Stadium in 13 days' time with a victory, after Pantelis Kapetanos's headed effort and a Christophe Berra own- goal in the closing minutes overturned Saulius Mikoliunas' opening score for the home side.

The Edinburgh side will also be without Bruno Aguiar for the return leg after the Portuguese midfielder was dismissed moments after the opening goal, a decision the manager Valdas Ivanauskas felt cost his team victory. "You must ask the referee about it," he said after the Danish official Nicolai Vollquartz showed Aguiar a second yellow for dissent. "I have been involved in a lot of European matches and for me the decision wasn't right. If not for the mistake by the referee we would have won the game."

Ivanauskas's opposite number Lorenzo Serra Ferrer refused to say that the tie was all but over after his side's win. "There are still 90 minutes to play and we have to respect Hearts," the Spaniard said. "Now we have an advantage but we must exploit it as much as possible. This was not an easy game for us but we came close to scoring 10 or 12 times."

Perhaps Hearts' nervousness during a first half dominated by the Greeks was understandable. The owner Vladimir Romanov is adamant that the club should compete in the upper echelons of European football in the immediate future, meaning his players are under pressure to deliver success at home and abroad despite many of them lacking the necessary experience.

The expectations of the Hearts support have also risen to unseen levels since Romanov's arrival 18 months ago and such ambitions of glory were demonstrated by an attendance of 32,459 - the second largest for a Hearts home European tie.

Under the fiercest of pressure, Hearts somehow carved an opening just after the hour mark as the substitute Edgaras Jankauskas played in Roman Bednar 18 yards from goal. The Czech striker's effort rebounded from a post and Mikoliunas was on hand to stroke home the rebound.

The home team's job of defending their slender lead was made more difficult by Aguiar's sending off. And after 89 minutes Kapetanos headed a deserved equaliser past Gordon from Stavros Tziortziopoulos's cross amid jubilant scenes from the small band of travelling fans, before Nikos Liberopoulos's 20-yard effort deflected off Berra and past Craig Gordon as the clock entered stoppage-time.

It was a harsh way to lose the match but Hearts ultimately lost out to a team of exquisite individual and collective ability.

Taken from the Guardian/Observer

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