Demanding task ahead for AEK

AEK’s prospects of a spot in the Champions League’s group stage suffered a setback on Wednesday night following its 2-0 defeat against Spanish powerhouse Sevilla at its home ground. The Athens club, last season’s runner-up in the Greek Super League, now faces the uphill task of overturning the result when the two sides meet again for August 28’s return leg in Athens. Sevilla, winner of the UEFA Cup over the past two seasons and a title contender in last season’s domestic league until the very last round of play, is striving to reach the Champions League’s group stage for the first time. «Things are now certainly difficult, which doesn’t mean that there’s no hope left. We need to find the right attitude and the team needs to perform its best in the second leg,» remarked AEK’s Spanish coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer. «The truth is that it wasn’t the best day for some of our players. But we’re a team and I can’t comment on individuals. We stand by the players in both success and failure. We all win and lose together,» added the Spaniard, who acknowledged Sevilla’s superior class in terms of quality and roster value both prior to and following the game. Should AEK fail to reach the Champions League’s group stage, the club will be transferred to qualifiying competition for a place in the less prestigious UEFA Cup’s group stage. Young winger Jesus Navas stole the show at Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, setting up second-half goals for strikers Luis Fabiano and Frederic Kanoute with brilliant runs on the right to leave the UEFA Cup holders firmly in control of the third qualifying round tie. A streetwise AEK managed to keep the Andalucians at bay in the first half, though it took a fine point-blank save from Moretto to deny midfielder Diego Capel just before the break. Sevilla broke the deadlock two minutes into the second half, Luis Fabiano steering home from 3 meters after Navas had stretched the defense and slid a fine pass in from the right. Twenty minutes later, Navas jinked his way in toward the area from the right, rolled the ball into the path of the advancing Kanoute and the Mali striker steered it past Moretto with his first touch. AEK almost snatched a late away goal when striker Julio Cesar hit the bar with a long-range effort, but it was a rare scare for Sevilla keeper Andres Palop. The buildup to the game was dominated by the possible departure of Sevilla’s dynamic fullback Daniel Alves, who refused to play in the match as he awaits a hoped-for move to Chelsea. His teammates appeared unaffected by the distraction and Navas led the way with some sparkling footwork on the right wing. News agencies yesterday reported that Sevilla had rejected an offer by Chelsea for Alves. The Spanish team, reports said, considered the London club’s evaluation of the Brazilian defender as far below the current market level. «Sevilla would like to make clear… that they have rejected Chelsea’s offer because it is a very long way from the value put on the player by the club,» Sevilla said in a statement. Spanish media reported that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had reduced his offer for Alves to about 25 million euros after agreeing to pay 33 million euros on Tuesday. Sevilla president Jose Del Nido, who stated he had already turned down two offers for the attacking right-back, values Alves, a member of the Brazilian team that won the Copa America last month in Venezuela, at 36 million euros. Alves has said he wants to move to Chelsea. Sevilla coach Juande Ramos omitted him from Wednesday night’s game, leaving him eligible to play in the Champions League with another team this season. (Kathimerini/Reuters/AP)