MOL Vidi reach Europa League group stage
Hungary's reigning league champions drew 1-1 away against AEK Athens in the 2nd leg of their UEFA Champions' League play-off tie on Tuesday, thus losing 3-2 on aggregate after a 2-1 defeat in Hungary last week. Consolation comes in the form of confirmation that Vidi will still compete in Europe this season, all play-off losers falling into the group stage of the UEFA Europa League.
Last Wednesday, AEK Athens took advantage of a controversial refereeing decision which reduced Vidi to ten men in the 23rd minute, scoring twice before Marko Nikolic's side pulled one back to leave the tie delicately poised at 2-1 to the Greek league title holders at the halfway stage.
Vidi needed a clear two-goal victory to turn the tie around but they settled for putting on a stable, organised defensive performance in the first half of Tuesday's second leg in Greece's capital city. There were few chances for either side in that opening period, Vidi's Danko Lazovic coming closest with a free-kick which the home goalkeeper did well to save.
The pattern of the game changed after the break though, as did the scoreline in the 48th minute when the referee adjudged a visiting defender to have committed a foul inside the penalty area and Petros Mantalos converted the resultant spotkick. To their credit, Vidi stepped up a gear and equalised nine minutes later, Nego latching on to Lazovic's pass and breaking into the penalty area before calmly slotting the ball into the net.
The club from Székesfehérvár pressed hard for an equaliser in the remaining 33 minutes plus added time and even enjoyed a one-man advantage for the last ten minutes of normal time, but despite late pressure it only yielded a final chance for Roland Juhász in the 96th minute, his 17-metre shot beating the keeper but sadly also clearing the crossbar.
AEK Athens thus held on to progress to the Champions League group stage while Vidi will have to settle for participation in at least six more Europa League group-stage matches.
Champions League play-off, 2nd leg
AEK Athens 1-1 MOL Vidi FC (HT: 0-0)
Goalscorers: AEK: Mantalos (pen) 48', VID: Nego 57'
AEK progress 3-2 on aggregate.