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  • Euro heartache for Hoops in Athens

    Euro heartache for Hoops in Athens

    By: Laith Al Naeme on 14 Aug, 2018 21:22

  • UEFA Champions League
    Third Qualifying Round second-leg
    Olympic Stadium, Athens
    Tuesday, August 14, 2018

    AEK ATHENS… 2
    (Galo 6, Livaja 50)

    CELTIC…1
    (Sinclair 78)

    AEK Athens win 3-2 on aggregate

    CELTIC fell to an agonising 2-1 defeat against AEK Athens at the Olympic Stadium in Greece tonight (Tuesday) as their chances of progressing to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League for the third consecutive season came to an end, losing 3-2 on aggregate. Defeat in Athens means the Hoops will now meet FK Sūduva of Lithuania or Spartaks Jurmala of Latvia in the UEFA Europa League play-off round.

    Leigh Griffiths was one of two changes to the team that faced the Greek champions at Paradise last week, the Scotland striker replacing the injured Odsonne Edouard, with Jozo Simunovic also starting at the expense of the suspended Kristoffer Ajer. And James Forrest made his 300th appearance for the Hoops.

    There were around 30,000 supporters in Athens’ Olympic Stadium and the home support created a noisy atmosphere as proceedings got underway. It was the hosts who threatened first when Michalis Bakakis got on to the end of a pin-point cross from the left, but his header fell wide of the post.

    However, after just six minutes, AEK took the lead. Niklas Hult cut back the ball from the touchline into the path of Rodrigo Galo just outside the six-yard box, and the Brazilian made no mistake to place his shot right into the bottom corner.

    Stung into action, the Scottish champions started to control possession and created a flurry of chances. Callum McGregor, who looked lively in the first 15 minutes, picked out Tom Rogic at the edge of the area, but the Australian’s effort was held by goalkeeper Vassilis Barkas.

    Just after the quarter-hour mark, the Greeks had another lucky escape. Rogic danced his way into the box before flicking the ball over to McGregor but the midfielder couldn’t get enough of a touch to guide the ball home. At the other end, Craig Gordon had to be alert, racing off his line to clear the danger after some slack defending.

    In the 33rd minute McGregor again caused Athens problems down the flank. The midfielder delivered a powerful cross to Griffiths but the Hoops striker’s effort went inches wide. On the stroke of half-time, the Bhoys had another chance to draw level, but Jack Hendry’s header from Griffiths’ corner was off target.

    As the second half got underway, Marinos Ouzounidis’ side pushed forward in search of another goal and were rewarded five minutes into the half. A long ball into the box from a set-piece was met by Vassilis Lampropouos who played in Marko Livaja, and the Croatian striker’s header was tucked away into the back of the net.

    However, Celtic continued to press forward in search of a goal to drag themselves back into the tie and were dominating possession, with both Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair coming on midway through the second-half.

    And with 15 minutes left on the clock, Sinclair made an impact, heading home a precise Kieran Tierney cross to give Celtic a lifeline. Searching for an equaliser, the Hoops began to crank through the gears. Forrest picked out Dembele in the middle of the penalty area but the Frenchman was crowded out.

    With five minutes of stoppage time added on, Simunovic came so close to becoming the hero. He got on the end of a McGregor delivery in the last minute but his flick went inches wide. That would be the final chance of the match for the Bhoys.

    CELTIC (4-2-3-1) Gordon; Lustig (Dembele 60), Simunovic, Hendry, Tierney; Brown, Ntcham; Forrest, Rogic (Sinclair 75), McGregor; Griffiths
    Subs: Bain, Gamboa, Johnston, Kouassi, Hayes

    Website Man of the Match: Callum McGregor

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