Two goals in the last two minutes gave AEK Athens FC a 2-1 away win against Heart of Midlothian FC in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
The Scottish challengers took the lead against the run of play in the 63rd minute through Saulius Mikoliunas, although the dismissal of Bruno Aguiar for a second bookable offence gave AEK the impetus to stage a late rally. Pantelis Kapetanos restored parity in the 89th minute and there was still time for a dramatic conclusion as Christophe Berra put through his own net to make the Greek club firm favourites to progress.
Hearts had been forced into a late change when Julien Brellier succumbed to a chest infection, allowing new signing Christos Karipidis his debut in a holding midfield role. The former PAOK FC defender found himself on the back foot from the start and, as early as the third minute, Hearts captain Steven Pressley was relieved to see a header glance off his crossbar under pressure from Traianos Dellas.
The visitors' passing and movement restricted Hearts to the odd breakaway and, from one such surge, Mikoliunas almost broke the deadlock on eleven minutes, his left-foot strike deflecting off Bruno Cirillo before bouncing back off the upright and to safety. It proved the hosts' solitary threat on goal in the first half, and only a last-ditch tackle by Pressley and the agile goalkeeping of Craig Gordon prevented Julio Cesar from scoring before the interval.
The yellow shirts of AEK continued to stream towards the Hearts goal after it, with Nikolaos Lyberopoulos at the centre of their best attacks, yet it was Hearts who eventually made the breakthrough when Mikoliunas swept in the loose ball after Roman Bednář's effort had hit the post. Just as the home supporters were calling for the final whistle, though, AEK struck twice to alter the face of the tie dramatically.
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