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Steaua hit back to deny AEK Larnaca maiden win

AEK Larnaca FC 1-1 FC Steaua Bucureşti
The hosts looked on course for victory in their first UEFA Europa League home group game, but Mihai Costea's goal meant they had to settle for a point.

AEK Larnaca's Ioannis Skopelitis and Pablo Brandán of Steaua vie for possession in their sides' 1-1 draw
AEK Larnaca's Ioannis Skopelitis and Pablo Brandán of Steaua vie for possession in their sides' 1-1 draw ©Getty Images

AEK Larnaca FC picked up their first point in UEFA Europa League Group J after a 1-1 draw against FC Steaua Bucureşti.

The Cypriot side were on their way to celebrating a maiden win after Miljan Mrdaković had struck to give them the lead in the 59th minute. However, Mihai Costea responded soon after for Steaua, who had to see out the final stages with ten men following Pablo Brandán's dismissal.

Steaua could not manage a shot on target on matchday one, but they threatened early in Cyprus. Leandro Tatu had an early glimpse of the home goal, swivelling in the sixth minute to fire over. Brandán's powerful header then brought the best out of Marco Fortin and, with Cristian Tănase pulling the strings impressively in the Steaua midfield, the visitors were playing with confidence.

Making their home debut in a UEFA club competition group stage, AEK were nonetheless far from content to simply make up the numbers. Indeed, Njongo Priso had already fired wide when he was released by Jason Demetriou on the stroke of half-time. He drove into the box only to find the angle too acute and well covered by Steaua goalkeeper Răzvan Stanca.

Just before the hour mark the hosts took the lead, as Priso drilled in a low cross which Mrdaković stabbed in at the second attempt. Lacklustre since the break, Steaua refocused, and the persistence of Alexandru Bourceanu earned them an equaliser six minutes later. He charged down Edwin Linssen's clearance and Costea pounced on it, driving into the area and firing across Fortin.

Chances came to both sides as the game opened up, with AEK applying late pressure following Brandán's 82nd-minute sending-off. Their best chance fell to Rubén Gómez, but the substitute was denied by the legs of Stanca.