A week after losing the crunch Ethniki Katigoria game to Olympiakos Piraeus FC, AEK Athens bounced back to defeat their title rivals in the Hellenic Cup final by the odd goal in three today.
Crucial red card
After a goalless first half, Sotirios Konstantinidis put AEK ahead only for Giovanni to put Olympiakos back on level terms after an hour. But the Brazilian was later sent off and AEK immediately regained the upper hand, allowing substitute Ilia Ivic to head an 83rd-minute winner.
In a game with ten yellow cards in all, the first half was a frenetic affair. Both sides were forced to make substitutions through injury. Twenty-six minutes in, AEK full-back Michalis Kasapis hobbled off and 14 minutes later Olympiakos midfield player Christian Karembeu strained a muscle and had to be replaced.
The first clear-cut chance fell AEK’s way on 52 minutes, when Demis Nikolaidis weaved through a string of Olympiakos challenges only to be brought down by goalkeeper Angelos Georgiou in the area. Vassilis Tsartas stepped up to take the ensuing penalty and struck the post, but the ball found its way to Konstantinidis, who duly swept it home.
Just past the hour, AEK keeper Dionissis Hiotis pulled off a remarkable save to prevent Giovanni equalising with a close-range header, but could do nothing to stop the Brazilian heading home from a Stylianos Giannakopoulos free-kick nine minutes later.
Giovanni sees red
But once Giovanni was dismissed for unsporting behaviour, Olympiakos were chasing the game and Ivic, who had only just come on for Konstantinidis, headed home seven minutes from time.
The goal ultimately gave AEK their 12th Greek Cup and condemned Olympiakos to their second successive fall at the final hurdle. Jubilant AEK coach Fernando Santos said: "It was a match worthy of a cup final but my players deserved to triumph."
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