AEK Athens FC have parted company with coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer on the eve of their match against Getafe CF in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.
The decision follows successive defeats by Panionios GSS and Larissa FC which have caused AEK to drop from first to third place in the Greek Super League, four points behind leaders Panathinaikos FC. The 54-year-old Serra Ferrer had been appointed in summer 2006 and enjoyed a successful first season, taking AEK into the UEFA Champions League group stage where they recorded wins against AC Milan and LOSC Lille Métropole.
The Spaniard was rewarded, at the end of last term, with a contract extension until 2011, yet things have not worked out as planned. AEK, who last lifted the Greek title in 1994, were eliminated by Sevilla FC in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round. And though they started promisingly on the domestic front with six straight victories, a home loss to Iraklis FC on 4 November preceded a defeat at Panathinaikos, bringing AEK back down to earth. Below-par performances since, culminating in Saturday's reverse at Larissa, prompted the coach's departure.
Task at hand
One positive has been AEK's UEFA Cup run, although they have struggled to find top form in Europe too, winning just once to advance from the group stage as a third-placed finisher. One of Serra Ferrer's asssistants, former AEK player Nikolaos Kostenoglou, will take the helm for Wednesday's home first leg against Spanish side Getafe. "I respected, I respect, and I will always respect Lorenzo Serra Ferrer, but the important thing right now is to lift team morale ahead of a crucial match," Kostenoglou said. "Today it's me in this position, tomorrow someone else will be in my shoes. I can only say it's a great honour to be in charge. Our priority is the Getafe game and we need to concentrate on the task at hand."
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