An incisive AEK Athens FC side earned the first points of their UEFA Europa League with a 3-1 win against SK Sturm Graz in an entertaining match in Austria.
Nikos Kostenoglou's men took the lead through Kostas Manolas on ten minutes, and for long periods the swift, incisive AEK dominated. Nathan Burns added a second before half-time, and although Florian Kainz's finish before the hour gave the hosts a lifeline, it was snatched away by Viktor Klonaridis' excellent 77th-minute solo goal.
Both sides were already eliminated and that knowledge liberated AEK, who had a lively, purposeful start, with only the foot of the post preventing Dimitris Sialmas's header from giving them a first-minute lead after Grigoris Makos' back-post cross. It was Manolas who sent them on their way a few minutes later, lashing Thomas Burgstaller's poor clearance past the helpless Silvije Čavlina after the keeper had initially made a remarkable point-blank stop from Cala.
The relentless AEK doubled their advantage before the break, Burns confidently chesting the ball over the line at the back post after a neat dribble and clipped cross from Roger Guerreiro.
Sturm started the second period brighter. Roman Kienast headed narrowly wide from Kainz's corner before the hosts took the lead on 59 minutes when Kainz curled inside the left post from Joachim Standfest's cutback. But the Austrian outfit could not find a second, and AEK restored their two-goal cushion as Roger Guerreiro sent Klonaridis charging down the left flank, the winger outsprinting his markers to reach the area and fire the ball high past Čavlina.
There was time for Dimitris Konstantopoulos to make a stunning save, stretching to palm Haris Bukva's curler around the post as the hosts tried to battle back before the whistle, but AEK held on for a deserved win.
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