AEK snatches a late victory

EDINBURGH – Two late goals gave AEK a vital 2-1 win away to Hearts in the first leg of a Champions League tie at Murrayfield Stadium on Wednesday night. The Scottish side looked to be heading for a crucial victory to take to Greece in two weeks’ time through Lithuanian Saulius Mikoliunas’s second-half goal. However, the Edinburgh side’s hearts were cruelly broken with an equalizer by Pantelis Kapetanos in the final minute and then a winner by Nikos Lymberopoulos deep into injury time. Though the manner of the result was hard on Hearts, AEK fully deserved their triumph after dominating most of the match, which had been moved from Tynecastle to Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, to allow more supporters to witness the spectacle. The Greek team were favorites to qualify from this third qualifying round first-leg tie and in the opening minutes they demonstrated why by forcing Hearts onto the back foot. In the third minute only the woodwork prevented the Greek side going ahead. Brazilian striker Julio Cesar Da Silva E Souza found Lymberopoulos with an in-swinging corner and though his looping header left Hearts goalkeeper Craig Gordon stranded, the ball struck the top of the crossbar allowing the danger to be cleared. Though the Greek side were well on top, Hearts almost stole the lead in the 12th minute when a left-foot shot from Lithuanian midfielder Mikoliunas from 20-meters was deflected by AEK’s Italian defender Bruno Cirillo onto the bar with keeper Stefano Sorrentino beaten. Hearts’ Czech striker Michal Pospisil almost put the ball in his own net when he headed a Julio Cesar corner against the near post in the 37th minute. Lymberopoulos was unlucky in the 54th minute to see his powerful shot from 25 meters deflect just wide of the post after striking Hearts defender Christophe Berra. But in the 62nd minute, Hearts, competing in the competition for the first time, took the lead against the run of play. Lithuanian Edgaras Jankauskas, who had replaced Greek defender Christos Karipidis in the 55th minute, drove up the left wing and squared the ball into the path of Roman Bednar. Though the Czech’s first-time effort from 12 meters beat Sorrentino, the ball rebounded back off the bottom of his left-hand post, but Mikoliunas was in the right place at the right time to coolly side-foot low into the net from nine meters. A rush of blood to the head by Hearts’ Portuguese player Bruno Aguiar in the 67th minute, however, quietened the celebrating Scottish support making up the majority of the 32,459 crowd when he received a second yellow card by throwing the ball away – after picking up a caution for a foul in the first half. In the 86th minute, a free kick by Julio Cesar from 20 meters looked a certainty to level the score but Gordon majestically dived across his line to push the ball over his bar. But then the night turned sour for Hearts. First, in the final minute Stavros Tziortziopoulos, who had replaced Martin Pautasso in the 80th minute, swung a cross into the penalty area where Kapetanos was able to react first to send a glancing header into the corner of the net. As if that was not cruel enough, Hearts then lost another goal after three minutes of additional time. Lymberopoulos’s shot from 30 meters was unlikely to be troubling Gordon until it took a wicked deflection off the thigh of Hearts defender Berra, leaving the keeper wrong-footed as it flew into the opposite corner of the net.

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