AEK Athens FC cruised into the fourth round of the UEFA Cup with a crushing 8-1 aggregate win against Maccabi Haifa.
Both sides came into this competition having been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League, but the gulf between the teams was apparent as AEK won the second leg 4-1 in the GSP stadium in Cyprus - where Maccabi have been forced to play their European home games this season - to add to their 4-0 win in Greece two weeks ago.
Maccabi begin brightly
Maccabi actually started the brighter, and their early pressure paid off in the sixth minute when Nikolaos Georgeas brought down Adoram Keise inside the AEK penalty area. Walid Badir easily tucked away the penalty, sending Dionisios Chiotis the wrong way.
AEK on the attack
AEK took some time to get back into the game, with their first real chance arriving two minutes past the half-hour, as Vassilios Lakis saw his effort cleared off the line by Eric Ejiofor. Lakis then headed just wide from a great cross by Grigorios Georgatos, but AEK were always in danger of conceding a second goal, as Yaniv Katan and Nenad Pralija consistently threatened on the counter-attack.
AEK took control after half-time and drew level after 56 minutes when Lakis found Konstantinos Katsouranis unmarked in the Maccabi area. From then on it was all AEK, although Maccabi substitute Eran Levy missed a glorious chance to restore his side’s lead as he put the ball wide from right in front of goal.
As Maccabi pushed forward, AEK exploited the spaces and deservedly took the lead in the 80th minute, when Georgatos’ tantalising cross found Lakis in the area. He made no mistake. The goal demoralised Maccabi, and it was AEK who poured forward as substitute Dimitrios Nalitzis, Georgatos and Lakis all missed glorious chances within the space of three minutes. AEK eventually made their pressure count, with substitute Walter Centeno creating two late goals for Lakis and Dimitrios Nalitzis.
'It was easy'
“We already were in a good position after the first leg, and after we equalised things were very easy for us. I hope this game gives us confidence for our upcoming league games, and hopefully we can get back on track,” said AEK's Dutch defender Michel Kreek.