AEK triumphs in cup

AEK, the season’s surprise package despite the club’s limited funds and lack of star players, plunged its lucrative yet troubled rival Panathinaikos further into disarray last night with a stinging 3-1 defeat at home for a third-round exit from the Greek Cup. The two sides had drawn 1-1 in the third-round games’ first leg. Panathinaikos’s players went into the game knowing that elimination could spell the end of Czech coach Zdenek Scasny’s short tenure at the club, approximately four months long. Last weekend’s 3-1 defeat against Xanthi in league competition produced press reports making last night’s Greek Cup encounter a do-or-die affair for Scasny’s future at the club. It was a stark contrast to the situation at the club just weeks ago, when Panathinaikos was crowned the first division’s «winter champion» for leading at the season’s midway mark. The club is now third, four points behind front runner and archrival Olympiakos, which has a game in hand. AEK went up 1-0 after just seven minutes when club captain Costas Katsouranis converted a penalty. Panathinaikos leveled just after halftime with a header from Cypriot striker Michalis Constantinou after 49 minutes. AEK stunned Panathinaikos’s modest home crowd when striker Alessandro Soares soared to connect with a powerful header that sent AEK 2-1 ahead. The triumph was sealed with a third goal from a Vladan Ivic free kick in the 77th. Also yesterday, Thessaloniki club Aris advanced to the Greek Cup’s fourth round with a 2-1 away win over Ethnikos.

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