Two first-half goals by Luis Fabiano and further strikes by Seydou Keita and Aleksandr Kerzakhov against AEK Athens FC tonight ensured that Sevilla progressed to the UEFA Champions League for the first time.
The tragic fires in Greece and the recent death of Sevilla's Antonio Puerta had cast a dark shadow over the second leg of this third qualifying round tie, leading it to be delayed from last Tuesday until tonight. It was with those sad events still fresh in the mind that Sevilla, winners of the UEFA Cup for the past two seasons, qualified for the group stage after an impressive display in Athens.
With the hosts 2-0 down from the first leg, AEK decided to go for broke from the outset, their bold approach always likely to be susceptible to the counterattack. Nonetheless Lorenzo Serra Ferrer's team had the first chance on 12 minutes when Rivaldo brought the best out of Andrés Palop with a trademark free-kick and the Brazilian was denied from a similar attempt on 28 minutes. Sevilla came even closer when Kerzhakov rattled the crossbar with a fierce shot just after the quarter-hour mark.
The returning Daniel Alves looked particularly threatening on the right flank, and his key contribution led to the first goal as he was brought down in the area by Júlio César on the half-hour. Luis Fabiano scored from the spot to give Sevilla a deserved lead on the night and AEK's resistance crumbled in the ensuing 15 minutes. On 40 minutes, summer signing Keita headed in the Spanish side's second from Daniel Alves's corner and, five minutes later, another corner, this time by Diego Capel, was met by the unchallenged head of Luis Fabiano.
Nine minutes after the break, Juande Ramos's side scored their fourth with a powerful Kerzhakov strike. AEK were denied a consolation goal midway through the half when young substitute Michalis Pavlis was awarded a penalty after another new recruit Aquivaldo Mosquera brought him down. However, Palop saved Gustavo Manduca's spot-kick, compounding a sorry night for the home side, who did score eight minutes from time when Rivaldo converted a penalty awarded after Nikolaos Lyberopoulos was fouled by Daniel Alves. Sevilla progress to UEFA Champions League Group H, where they will meet Arsenal FC, FC Steaua Bucureşti and SK Slavia Praha.
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