AEK Athens FC 0-0 AS Roma
AEK Athens FC held AS Roma to a scoreless draw at the Nikos Goumas stadium in UEFA Champions League Group C tonight.
Tale of two halves
It was a tale of two halves, with Roma the stronger force before the break, taking the initiative and consistently pegging the hosts back. In the second period, AEK took a grip on the encounter, but lacked the guile to break down the visiting defence. The result leaves both sides without a goal to their name in this season's competition.
This was AEK's second goalless draw after last week's stalemate with KRC Genk, yet they had two brilliant chances to open the scoring early on, the first when midfield player Konstantinos Katsouranis almost buried a bullet header. Then Themistoklis Nikolaidis latched on to a magnificent through-ball but with only goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli to beat, he contrived to prod his shot centimetres wide.
In between, Roma - beaten at home by Real Madrid CF on Matchday One - were dominant as the Brazilian trio of Emerson, Francesco Lima and Cafu took charge of the midfield with tidy passing that left the AEK players trailing in their wake. The Italian team were unlucky not to open the scoring when Vincenzo Montella hit the sidenetting after a clever back-heel from Gabriel Batistuta.
Soon after veteran full-back Cafu struck a menacing shot which almost dipped in, then his compatriot Emerson, the player he stood in for as Brazil captain in the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan, headed over.
Midway through the first period, Montella cursed himself after spurning two opportunities in as many minutes after one thundering shot from inside the area was blocked and he then sent a second shot wide with his left foot. Emerson was in the thick of the action shortly before the interval, volleying over from a cross by Batistuta, working tirelesly in more of a provider's role.
AEK seize initiative
AEK, though, looked bright at the start of the second half, Vassilios Tsartas forcing Antonioli to spring to his right to keep out a low shot from the edge of the D and Nikolaidis hooking an effort beyond the far post. Now the Greek side were in charge and Nikolaidis failed narrowly to get on to the end of a ball from Vassilios Lakis on 68 minutes.
Blow for blow
The Greeks benefited from matching Emerson and Lima blow for blow in the midfield, thereby wrestling control of proceedings and establishing a platform to piece together their own moves, substitute Dimitrios Nalitzis breaking free to blast a stinging shot at Antonioli on 79 minutes.
Roma's last stand
Roma were still able to cause alarm, with Tomassi's clever back-heel almost playing in Batistuta. Cafu shot over once again and Candela forced goalkeeper Dionisios Chiotis to tip his free-kick around the post in the last minute. It proved the final act.
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