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Substitutions fire AEK revival

Published: Wednesday 23 October 2002, 13.00CET
Coach Dusko Bajevic's double change sparked a superb AEK Athens FC comeback in Madrid.
Published: Wednesday 23 October 2002, 13.00CET

Substitutions fire AEK revival

Coach Dusko Bajevic's double change sparked a superb AEK Athens FC comeback in Madrid.

A double substitution just after half-time by AEK Athens FC coach Dusko Bajevic turned the Greek side's UEFA Champions League Group C match with Real Madrid CF on its head at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium.

Ivic the spark
With the Spanish side comfortable and leading 2-0 after 53 minutes, Bajevic decided to introduce Ilija Ivic for Themistoklis Nikolaidis up front, and Christos Maladenis for Vassilios Tsartas in midfield. From the moment he came on, Ivic created problems on the right flank, and his inspiration helped AEK fight back to earn a 2-2 draw as Madrid paid for second-half complacency.

Although Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque was without attacking stars Raúl González and Luis Figo, both injured with muscle strains, the Champions League holders decided to press AEK from the first minute. Steve McManaman played on the right wing, Albert Celades (replacing Claude Makelele) played next to Esteban Cambiasso in midfield, and Guti – Madrid's leading Champions League scorer with four goals – lined up alongside Ronaldo in attack.

Zidane and McManaman busy
Madrid played well in the first half, with their French midfield creator Zinedine Zidane especially prominent. The Merengues skilfully circulated the ball from one flank to another to trouble the AEK defence. McManaman was also an active first-half figure, and was rewarded for his efforts with goals after 24 and 42 minutes, leaving the home side easily in control and close to qualification for the second group stage.

Off the hook
However, Madrid somehow managed to let the visitors off the hook. "We could have scored more goals in the first half," said Argentinian midfield player Santiago Solari. "But in the second half, we did not play well and AEK took advantage of the situation."

Key changes
In the second half, the AEK substitutions proved to be crucial. Ivic, the speedy Yugoslavian winger, was heavily involved in the Greek side's increasingly dangerous attacks and created problems for Madrid left-back Roberto Carlos. In addition, Del Bosque took off Zidane and Roberto Carlos, which meant that Madrid played the last 25 minutes without four of their five key men - Raúl, Figo, Zidane and Roberto Carlos. Ronaldo was in subdued mood on his Champions League debut for Madrid, and an insecure home defence was breached twice - Konstantinos Katsouranis and Walter Centeno did the damage.

No Madrid crisis
AEK's former Sevilla FC midfield player Tsartas was delighted with the result, but added: "Real Madrid are not in crisis. Their players are very good, and positive results will come soon." When asked how the match changed after AEK's two substitutions, Tsartas said: "It is actually curious that after myself and Nikolaidis, the most attacking players in the team, had been replaced, AEK went on to draw the match."

KEY PLAYER: Ilija Ivic (AEK Athens FC)
When the Yugoslavian winger came on to the field eight minutes into the second half, Madrid were two up and dominating proceedings. AEK were slow in their play, and had been unable to surprise the hosts' four-man back line. After the appearance of Ivic, AEK began to make inroads towards the Madrid goal. He troubled Roberto Carlos with his speed and caused considerable problems to Raúl Bravo when he came on for the Brazilian defender.

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