All to play for after AEK Larnaca defeat Maccabi

AEK Larnaca FC 2-1 Maccabi Haifa FC
Goals from Gonzalo García and Gorka Pintado moved the hosts to within a point of their opponents and kept alive their Group J qualification hopes.

AEK Larnaca goalscorers Gonzalo García and Gorka Pintado celebrate
AEK Larnaca goalscorers Gonzalo García and Gorka Pintado celebrate ©Getty Images

AEK Larnaca FC secured a narrow victory against Maccabi Haifa FC to stay in contention for the UEFA Europa League knockout stage.

Goals in each half from Gonzalo García and Gorka Pintado ensured Jurica Buljat's strike was no more than a consolation and condemned the visitors to a tenth European game on the road without a win. Victory means AEK move to within a point of their opponents, who sit second in Group J after FC Schalke 04's victory over FC Steaua Bucureşti.

The early stages were short on chances until the 14-minute mark when Maccabi's Itzhak Cohen hesitated in possession, allowing García to pounce on the loose ball and break clear before firing low past Bojan Šaranov. The visitors rarely threatened in the first half and, despite two half-time substitutions, were unable to get going after the break.

AEK took full advantage of their opponents lacklustre performance and extended their lead on 51 minutes. Quick thinking by Pintado on the right flank saw the forward get the better of Šaranov, brilliantly disguising his shot as a cross and beating the goalkeeper at his near post.

In the final stages the visitors began to pick up the tempo and exert pressure on their hosts. With 15 minutes remaining they gave themselves a lifeline when Buljat broke free on the right and drove the ball in at Alexandre Negri's near post.

The goal proved little more than a consolation for the visitors, though, and their two-year wait for an away win in Europe continues. Maccabi can wrap up second spot in Group J with a victory at home to Schalke on 14 December while Demetris Demetriou's charges travel to Steaua with both sides looking to capitalise on any slip-up by the Israeli club.