AEK Athens FC hero Júlio César basked in the glory of his superb free-kick winner last night against AC Milan that produced a 1-0 victory and a real chance of progress to the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds.
Until Matchday 4, AEK had never won a game in the group stage, but the Brazilian's spectacular strike beyond compatriot Dida in the 32nd minute ensured they followed up their defeat of LOSC Lille Métropole with a victory that takes them above the French side into second place in Group H. Three more points at eliminated RSC Anderlecht would take AEK through, and the 26-year-old's delight was clear.
"I'm feeling extremely happy with the goal but more importantly the victory which gives us a chance of making it to the next round," Júlio César said. "I am glad to have beaten such a great goalkeeper as Dida, in a footballer's life there is always the chance to score great goals. We had lots of self-confidence before the game and with the help of our supporters we managed to get a great win. We will focus on the Greek championship for now but we'll have in the back of our minds that we are so near qualification."
AEK were under pressure for long spells, particularly in the first half when Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi contrived to miss three golden opportunities. But Júlio César insists the players were always confident they could beat Milan. "We came into this game on the back of two great wins in the Greek championship and the players have worked very hard these past few days in the build up to this match," the striker said. "We were excited and confident at the same time and we felt we had a chance."
After also claiming an impressive strike in the 1-1 draw against Anderlecht on Matchday 2 and some fine goals in the Greek Super League, Júlio César is gaining somewhat of a reputation. "It's nice to score these kind of goals," he said. "It's good for my career and shows all my hard work but still it's more important that I contribute to the team's success."
'Give my all'
Júlio César has come in for criticism by some sections of the AEK supporters at times due to his inconsistency but he hopes his magical winner against Milan will go some way to vindicating his efforts. "As a footballer you always get some criticism from the fans but I will continue to give my all and I hope that the supporters see that," he said.
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