UEFA Champions League 2018 Qualifying

Celtic Park, Glasgow

8th August 2018

Celtic Glasgow v AEK Athens

Like Athens Glasgow is a city of many football clubs but it’s two giants who hold sway.   For Olympiakos and Panathinaikos see great rivals Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers.  Things though are a little bit more complicated in Athens with the presence of AEK the current Greek Superleague champions.

The last time AEK won the Greek title back in 1994, AEK had come to the west coast of Scotland to play against Celtic’s cross-town rivals Rangers.  Ibrox Stadium hosted an AEK who were led at that time by the legendary Greek striker Dimitris Saravakos.

Saravakos (better known for his time with Panathinaikos) had that summer led Greece at USA ’94 in what turned out to be an unsuccessful tournament for the Greek national team.   Hosting the first leg at the historic Nikos Goumas Stadium, Saravakos opened the scoring with a superb strike on 44 minutes. The same player doubled AEK’s lead in the second half when pouncing upon his own rebound.   AEK defeated a strong Rangers team 3-0 over the two legs in a convincing display and a strong track record against Scottish sides has continued over the years.

Matches against other Scottish teams

Edinburgh side Hibernian were defeated in 2001 by 4-3 while Hearts were disposed of in the Champions League qualifiers 5-1 over the two legs in 2006.  A recent UEFA Cup game against Dundee United was a closer affair with the Greeks winning 2-1 but AEK still have a 100% record against Scottish teams going into the match against Celtic.

These days there is no Saravakos in the AEK squad and the club no longer plays at the atmospheric Nea Filadelfia Nikos Goumas Stadium.  With the Olympic Games being held in Athens during 2004, Giannis Granitsas, then president of AEK decided to demolish the stadium in June 2003 claiming that the stadium was too old.  Another claim was that it had been structurally damaged by the 1999 Athens earthquake that killed 140 people.

The club’s initial plan was to build a modern arena on the same northwestern Athens site; a stadium development that would mirror that of Olympiakos whom had developed its ground and saw it used for the 2004 Olympic football tournament. But the ambitious plan of AEK was halted after various objections were raised by local residents and the looming of the Greek financial crisis.

to be continued…