London Hearts Supporters Club

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


Hearts 1 AEK Athens 2
By Gary Ralston

HEARTS were left with a mountain to climb in their bid to claim a place in the Champions League - and it stands as mighty as Olympus.

The Jambos were on course to claim the biggest act of larceny inflicted against the Greeks since Lord Elgin made off with their marbles in the 19th century.

Midfielder Saulis Mikoliunas handed the SPL runners-up a lead against all the odds after an hour at Murrayfield.

But justice, horrible as it was for Scottish football, was done when AEK scored twice in the final moments to give them the victory they merited.

There was only a minute left when a cross from sub Stavros Tziortziopoulous was turned in past Craig Gordon by the head of striker Pantelis Kapitanos.

But worse was to come in the second minute of injury time when danger man Nikolaos Lymperopoulos, who had peppered the Hearts goal with shots all night, struck the winner with an effort from distance that took a wicked deflection off defender Christophe Berra.

Hearts were even left with 10 men when Bruno Aguiar was sent off for his second caution and he now misses the return in Athens in a fortnight.

Hearts will probably have to score three times to progress and on last night's performance, in front of more than 32,000 fans, it looks beyond them.

Their Champions League hopes appear sunk and not even Poseidon himself looks capable of hauling them from the abyss.

Hearts were hit by a pre-match virus that ruled out Julien Brellier and Deividas Cesnauskis and forced Edgaras Jankauskas on to the bench.

The Champions League maybe virgin territory for the Jambos - who only twice played in its predecessor, the European Cup - but the players walked out the tunnel with the swagger of veterans.

O Fortuna from the opera Carimina Burana, the theme from the Old Spice advert to you and me, boomed out but the fat lady was almost breaking into a mournful lament for the Jambo hopes after only 10 minutes.

AEK forced two corners within the opening two minutes and from the second Euro 2004 hero Traianos Dellas knocked a header from a Julio Cesar delivery against the woodwork.

Hearts were rattled and little wide man Cesar, the No.99 who clearly felt he had the Jambos defence licked, came close to scraping Gordon's bar with a 25-yard effort.

Hearts were chasing shadows as Lymperopoulos, lingering menacingly in the hole behind frontman Pantelis Kapetanos, exchanged passes with the striker and flashed another effort over the top from the edge of the box. Hearts badly needed to hold possession in midfield where new boy Christos Karipidis was struggling to stamp his authority in central areas with Aguiar.

Even former Rangers flop Emerson was looking the part in a holding role for the Greeks although Hearts almost went in front with their first serious attack of the game. Saulius Mikoliunas had barely featured before he picked up the ball wide right, cut inside and rattled in an effort defender Bruno Cirilla deflected on to the outside of a post.

Mikoliunas popped up in a similar position soon after Neil McCann had played in Takis Fyssas but this time he lacked composure and ballooned his effort over the top.

That was as good as it got for Hearts as AEK picked up where they left off.

Serbian Vladimir Ivic burst forward and tested Gordon with a low shot from 30 yards the keeper did well to hold low to his right.

But even Gordon knew little about the next effort from distance when he scrambled to his left as Lymperopoulous sent a low shot whizzing inches wide.

In their yellow and black shirts AEK were buzzing like wasps around a honey pot and Steven Pressley had to stick out a leg to deflect a Julio Cesar effort over the top.

And from the resulting set piece Hearts were fortunate not to concede again as Michal Pospisil nodded the ball against his own front post after another devastating delivery by Julio Cesar.

Hearts fans were watching the action from between their fingers by now and the only straw to be clutched was that somehow they had still not conceded.

The malaise even stretched to the most experienced players as Pressley and Gordon failed to communicate and the skipper had to boot the ball away as half-time approached.

As bad luck would have it, the ball dropped to the feet of Julio Cesar out on the left and he fired an effort that would have found the back of the net had Gordon not got back in time to fingertip his effort wide of the post.

Berra glanced a header wide from a McCann corner at the start of the second half.

But that only antagonised the Greeks and although Emerson's long range effort landed among the knot of around 200 visiting fans behind Gordon's goal it wasn't too far over.

Karipidis was robbed in midfield by nippy little full-back Nikolaos Georgeas but he tried to pass his shot into the corner of the net and Gordon ushered it wide.

The keeper saw that one coming but he knew little about another from Lymperopoulos that took a wicked deflection off Berra and looped wide.

Hearts hauled off debutant Karipidis and replaced him with Jankauskas.

The former Porto frontman made for the kind of area usually occupied by injured Paul Hartley and Hearts became much more dangerous.

A long throw by Fyssas was met by Aguiar but before he could get his foot around the ball Mikoliunas popped up in his line of vision and his volley from 14 yards dropped wide.

Hearts were cursing Mikoliunas then but they were lauding him on the hour when the Jambos took a sensational lead against all the odds.

Jankauskas broke forward and played a short pass inside to Roman Bednar who took one touch and poked an effort off the inside of a post from 16 yards.

Mikoliunas then raced in from the right to fire the loose ball into the net and send Murrayfield into a frenzy.

The goal came completely out of the blue but so did the next decision six minutes later from Danish ref Nicolai Vollquartz.

McCann tangled in midfield with Martin Pautasso and Aguiar nipped in to pick up the loose ball as Vollquartz blew for the free-kick.

Aguiar made no contact whatsoever with the full-back but the whistler seemed to rule his decision to move the ball away as time-wasting and flashed a second yellow to add to his first-half caution for a foul on Lymperopoulos.

The Jambos sacrificed Bednar for full-back Lee Wallace moments after Lymperopoulos screwed a shot wide.

Mikoliunas missed a glorious opportunity when he splayed a shot over from eight yards after Michal Pospisil knocked on a Fyssas free-kick.

Hearts again rode their luck when McCann was booked for hauling down Emerson and Julio Cesar curled a free-kick wide.

The Greeks became desperate as they searched for an equaliser and a shot from Lymperopoulos deflected off Pressley and squirmed wide.

Julio Cesar then sent a 25-yard free-kick inches past a post with Gordon rooted to the spot.

Hearts were hanging on in desperation but their luck ran out in the 89th minute.

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

Then deep into the four minutes of injury time Lymperopoulos drove a shot at goal that struck Berra and sped past Gordon for AEK's second.

It was hard for the Hearts fans to stomach but just reward for the Greeks who had dominated the game.

Taken from the Daily Record

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