AJ Auxerre and Grazer AK played out an entertaining scoreless draw in UEFA Cup Group F - but neither side will be entirely happy with just one point.
In a game that ebbed and flowed from start to finish it will be the home side who will most feel they could have won after Teemu Tainio in the first half and then Kanga Akalé and Bonaventure Kalou after the break all went close to opening the scoring. GAK were adventurous at the outset but appeared to settle for a point as they survived a late Auxerre onslaught.
Auxerre brought in playmaker Yann Lacheur for Lionel Mathis, suffering from a heavy cold, and Jean-Sébastien Jaurès's absence saw a European debut for 18-year-old Younes Kaboul. Grazer were boosted by the return of their captain Anton Ehmann but René Aufhauser only made the bench after recovering from a thigh strain.
A frantic start to the game saw both sides threaten from distance. Benjani Mwaruwari had the home side's first effort but his curling shot was safely gathered by goalkeeper Andreas Schranz. Shortly after Tainio saw his volley fly over the bar, but as it seemed Auxerre were establishing an edge it was GAK who fashioned some chances of their own.
Fabien Cool in the Auxerre goal did well to save a volley at full stretch from Gernot Sick as the away team signalled their attacking intent. Roland Kollmann was the visitors' main threat, but a resolute Auxerre defence held him at bay despite numerous dangerous crosses from the flanks.
Home side brighter
After the break, though, the home side began to turn the match around. The Auxerre midfield's employment of short, sharp passes in order to create the space with which to release their pacy forwards began to pay dividends.
In the 56th minute, Akalé had the game's first real opportunity as flicks from Tainio and Kalou found him free in the penalty area but his fierce strike was dragged wide. Akalé had another chance minutes later but he was unable to control his shot after Kalou's sharp pass inside the penalty area.
From this point on the home side were dominant and Auxerre desperately tried to press home their new-found territorial advantage. One final chance fell the French side's way when a high ball found Kalou free six metres from goal but his mid-air glancing volley failed to beat Schranz.
With a point on the board, Auxerre travel to Dutch side AZ Alkmaar on 4 November, when GAK have a a home tie with KS Amica Wronki, defeated 5-0 in Poland by Rangers FC tonight.
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