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By Paris Ayiomamitis at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium
AEK Athens FC bid farewell to the UEFA Champions League after being held to a goalless draw by AS Monaco FC.
The result, despite a battling performance, capped a disappointing campaign for AEK who only collected two points from six matches and had been destined to finish last in Group C regardless of tonight's result. Monaco now go into Friday's draw for the first knockout round having secured first place with eleven points.
With AEK already eliminated from European competition, fewer than 3,000 fans braved the heavy rain at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium. In a lacklustre first half which produced few chances for a goal on either side, AEK and Monaco found themselves struggling on a waterlogged pitch and neither had managed to find a breakthrough by half-time.
In their first European match since the departure of Greek international Grigorios Georgatos, AEK carved out their first chance after seven minutes when Vassilios Tsiartas shot straight at Monaco goalkeeper Tony Sylva from outside the area. AEK came close again moments later when a piercing cross from Vassilios Borbokis found Nikos Lyberopoulos in the penalty area but the Greek international mis-hit his shot with only Sylva to beat.
Key players missing
Missing key players from their lineup, Monaco struggled to find the goalscoring sharpness that had defined their Champions League campaign prior to this match. Nevertheless, the French side always looked threatening on the break and unsettled the home side's defence on 17 minutes, Lucas Bernardi finding space outside the area but his shot was tipped over the bar by Hrisostomos Mihailidis.
Chasing their first-ever Champions League victory, AEK pushed forward only to see their efforts repelled by Monaco's well-tuned defence. Marshalled by Tsiartas in midfield, the Greek side enjoyed the majority of the possession but were troubled down the wing by Emmanuel Adebayor and often failed to contain the energetic Czech Republic midfield player Jaroslav Plašil.
Didier Deschamps' team were denied again on 33 minutes when Adebayor headed the ball into the path of Fernando Morientes but the Spanish striker misjudged the lob to send it over Mihailidis. The fleet-footed Adebayor struck again five minutes later when he broke through AEK's defence and span round Mihaildis only to find the side of the net.
AEK stepped up the pace after the interval but still failed to trouble the visitors. However, the hosts almost broke the deadlock on 52 minutes when Lyberopoulos set up Vassilios Lakis outside the area but the Greek international's strike was straight at Sylva, who saved comfortably.
Buoyed by the chance, AEK pressed on and came close again after 53 minutes when Tsiartas' shot from the edge of the box went over the crossbar. Dusan Bajevic sought to bolster his forward line three minutes later, sending on Dimitrios Nalitzis in place of Lakis.
Playing for pride
AEK piled on the pressure in a bid to end their Champions League campaign on a high note, but failed to take advantage of confusion caused by a string of incisive crosses from Tsiartas and Yiannis Okkas. Theo Zagorakis found Borbokis behind the Monaco defence but he slipped in front of Sylva, and with that slip AEK's best chance best chance had gone, although Tsiartas sent a blistering low shot centimetres wide a minute later.
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