AEK goes down as expected

Athens club AEK began its Champions League campaign with an anticipated loss of 3-0 away to star-studded AC Milan in the northern Italian city Wednesday night. Headed goals in the first half from Filippo Inzaghi and Yoann Gourcuff put Milan in control, before Kaka’s 77th-minute penalty wrapped up the three points from their Group H opener. AEK had their moments, but a home victory never looked in doubt for the six-time European champions. AEK’s Spanish coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer declined to criticize his side for their display. «Against a team like Milan, with all their experience and their famous ability to keep possession, it is not just about what you can do,» said Ferrer. «I didn’t think we coped badly.»  Milan, whose Serie A title hopes have been severely dented by an eight-point penalty for match fixing, next face French side Lille in a fortnight. Playmaker Andrea Pirlo, a key figure in Italy’s triumphant World Cup campaign, and center-back Alessandro Nesta were both rested by Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti and not even named among the substitutes. Pirlo’s place went to Cristian Brocchi, a more defensive midfielder, and Dario Simic stepped in for Nesta. AEK’s central defender, Traianos Dellas, suffered a knee injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for approximately three weeks. Andrija Delibasic should have done better for AEK when presented with a free header, but his tame effort went straight into Nelson Dida’s grateful hands. Oliveira headed wide before Milan got their noses in front in the 17th minute. Paolo Maldini crossed from the left to the back post and Inzaghi planted a firm, angled header into the top corner. Milan doubled their advantage four minutes from halftime. Kaka broke down the right and whipped in a superb cross for Gourcuff whose bullet header gave Sorrentino no chance. AEK came close to pulling a goal back almost immediately, but Julio Cesar’s rasping drive was beaten away by Dida. The tall Brazilian’s palms were stung again shortly after halftime by Nikos Lyberopoulos’s long-range shot and, at the other end, Kaka’s scissor kick was punched over the bar by Sorrentino. Vladimir fluffed an easy header in the 73rd minute that would have reopened the tie, before Evangelos Moras brought down Inzaghi in the box to give away a spot-kick which Kaka slammed home. In first-round, first-leg UEFA Cup action last night, Xanthi lost 4-3 at home to Dinamo Bucharest. Later, Panathinaikos was due to host Ukranian club Zaporizhya Metalurh. Atromitos was scheduled to greet Sevilla. Iraklis was playing away to Wisla in the Polish city of Cracow. Cypriot club Ethnikos Achnas played a scoreless draw at home against Lens. All second-leg encounters are scheduled for a fortnight’s time. (AFP, Reuters, Kathimerini)