AEK through to Cup semis

Making the most of two early scoring opportunities against Panionios last night, AEK, the season’s surprise package, advanced to the Greek Cup’s semifinals with a 2-0 win. The Athens club, also in contention for the league title, despite beginning the season shaken by financial and administrative turmoil, kept Panionios to a scoreless draw at home in the home-and-away encounter’s first leg. AEK opened the scoring in the 10th minute with striker Julio Cezar and then bolstered its standing in the game with a second goal from Cezar’s partner up front, Nikos Lyberopoulos, just 13 minutes later. The away team almost went ahead in the eighth minute when striker Lubomir Meszaros made his way into the box. But he shot straight to keeper Chrysostomos Michailidis. Moments later, AEK, on the counterattack, made no mistake and opened the scoring. Midfielder Paulo Assunsao put Cezar through with a precision pass and the latter slotted under the keeper from close range. AEK punished the visitor again after 23 minutes for a 2-0 lead. Once again, Assunsao was the instigator. He cut through the right flank and crossed to Lyberopoulos who struck in from close range after Panionios defenders Pietr Vlcek and Savvas Exouzidis failed to clear the ball. From that point on, Panionios, which went into the game with several key players sidelined, was unable to respond. Genuine scoring opportunities were few and far between for the game’s remainder. AEK will meet either second-division club Kastoria or Olympiakos in the semifinal. Playing at home for the first leg, Kastoria beat the first division’s front-runner 2-1. The pair plays its return leg on March 24. Aris and Apollon Kalamaria meet today at the latter’s home ground for their return leg, following a scoreless draw. In the other quarterfinal, Larissa travels to Xanthi on March 23 with a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.

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