Ismael Blanco climbed off the substitutes' bench to salvage a 1-1 draw for AEK Athens FC deep into added time as the coach-less Greek side kept themselves in contention against Getafe CF at the OACA Spyro Louis Stadium.
AEK's preparations for the first instalment of this UEFA Cup Round of 32 tie were severely hampered by the departure of coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer last night. Former AEK player Nikolaos Kostenoglou temporarily stepped into the breach, and looked to be heading for disappointment when De la Red gave the visitors a deserved lead with just four minutes remaining. Yet Blanco had other ideas and in the fourth minute of stoppage time he showed superb improvisation, controlling Mohamed Kallon's knock-down before back-heeling into the bottom corner.
It means AEK will travel to Spain on 21 February with European aspirations still very much intact, but Getafe will not be cowed after bossing much of the game as Javier Casquero dictated things from midfield. The former Sevilla FC midfielder was the one ray of light in an anaemic first half, and his blistering long-range effort forced a fine save from Moretto after just three minutes. It was a promising start but the visitors had to wait until seven minutes from half-time before carving out another noteworthy chance, Casquero firing well wide after being sent through on goal.
Aside from a 19th-minute Pantelis Kafes effort, the home team had offered little in reply but improved after the break and Rivaldo should have opened the scoring soon after the restart but instead blazed over from close range. Manú sliced another effort over later in the half, though it was Getafe who were enjoying most of the possession, and finally broke through when De la Red slotted in after Nsaliwa Tamanda could only divert a dangerous cross into his path. There was still time for Blanco to have the last word, though.