16 year-old sub rescues AEK victory; Thrasyvoulos all but relegated.
AEK Athens scored a characteristically dramatic 1-0 win over last-placed Thrasyvoulos on Sunday evening, courtesy of a stunning 92nd minute winner scored by 16 year-old Panagiotis Tachtsidis.
The AEK youth product came off the bench to spare his side from what would have been an embarrassing scoreless draw at home to the league stragglers, keeping alive their hopes of a top-three finish this season.
Dusan Bajevic's side struggled to break down their determined opponents throughout the match, for whom the last minute loss was something of an injustice - and a particularly hearbtreaking way to lose.
Any notion that AEK's Round 22 clash against the league's bottom team would be a walk-over was dispelled inside the opening 45 minutes, as Thrasyvoulos proved themselves to be a resilient opponent with a disciplined display - themselves almost taking he eague in dramatic fashion at the end of the half.
Argentine forward Nacho Scocco missed the home side's best chance after two minutes, before Rafik Djebbour appeared to have won a penalty after being hauled down on his way to goal (12').
However, referee Polatian correctly awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty area, Scocco stepping up and sending the ball flashing past Peterson Pecanha's left post.
It was to be the last of AEK's chances for a prolonged period of the match, as Thrasyvoulos managed to get numbers behind the ball whilst holding possession competently at times.
Lacking the drive of the likes of the injured Pantelis Kafes and suspended Tamandani Nsaliwa, Dusan Bajevic's men were unable to break down their less illustrious opponents.
The closest they came was on 34' minutes, Rafik Djebbour crossing to the near post where Ismael Blanco was tracked tightly by his marker and unable to flick the ball towards Pecanha's goal.
AEK did manage to force the ball into the back of the net three minutes later, though it was correctly ruled out following a foul by combative centre-back Sotiris Kyrgiakos on Thrasyvoulos' 'keeper inside the area.
Finnish youngster Perparim Hetemaj then could have taken advantage of a rare start, half-volleying weakly towards goal from Nacho Scocco's deflected cut-back into the penalty area (39').
The superb Josef Kozlej, who lead the line superbly for the visitors during the first half, almost provided the assist for a shock lead for his team on the stroke of half-time.
An early-ball in from the left by the Slovakian forward caused panic amongst AEK's defence, Dimitris Koutroumanos unable to clear an awkward bouncing ball at the far post.
It eventually arrived with Juan Barrientos, the Argentine firing over the crossbar with a rather wild first-time effort but nonetheless providing a reminder of his team's attacking potency.
A similar story ensued for the hosts during the second half, their first half-chance of the match arriving on 63 minutes.
Hetemaj chested down a clipped ball into the penalty area for Algerian striker Djebbour, whose attempts to get a shot away from close range were blocked before the ball fell back to the Finnish midfielder.
Despite his appeals for a handball - his own attempted effort blocked - no penalty was forthcoming, leaving substitute Panagiotis Tachtsidis to shoot over the bar.
It was just six minutes later however that Thrasyvoulos wasted their best chance of the match, Domagoj Abramovic announcing his introduction to the match by drawing in two AEK defenders before slipping the ball through for captain Giannis Katsikis in-field.
The Thrasyvoulos striker suddenly found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Sebastian Saja from a narrow angle but screwed a hurried effort well wide of the near post.
It was a miss that paled in comparison with that of Argentine striker Ismael Blanco on 71' minutes however, AEK's top scorer somehow failing to score barely six yards out from an empty net.
Initially, striker partner Djebbour managed to win the ball from defender Federico Martorell on the left flank before taking it into the box and drawing out Pecanha.
The former Panionios player squared the ball to the unmarked Blanco, who only needed to tap the ball into an empty net but completely mistimed his effort, allowing Martorell to scramble back and clear the ball out for a corner.
One of his side's more lively performers, Djebbour almost gave AEK the lead single-handedly with five minutes remaining, chesting down Tachtsidis' cross into the box before holding off the challenge of a group of Thrasyvoulos defenders, only to see his shot from a narrow angle clawed away by Pecanha.
Nacho Scocco was next to come close as the home side pushed desperately for a late winner, Djebbour again at the centre of the move, holding the ball up for the Argentine to hit Pecanha's left upright with a low first-time effort.
Even cente-back Sotiris Kyrgiakos found himself virtually alone with the Thrasyvoulos 'keeper in the final minute of normal time, latching onto Scocco's mis-timed effort on the edge of the area before seeing his low attempt from inside the box saved unconvincingly by the Brazilian.
However, there was nothing the effervescent 'keeper could do about Panagiotis Tachtsidis' effort in the second minute of injury time, the 16 year-old latching onto Sotiris Kyrgiakos' flick-on before turning the Thrasyvoulos defence brilliantly on the edge of the penalty area, shooting low into the left corner of the net in one swift motion.
The unlikeliest of Athenian heroes, the teenager gave his side a slightly fortunate victory, perhaps only deserving of their sense of adventure in the dying stages of the match.
It was a moment that perhaps epitomized what has been a difficult season for Thrasyvoulos, who now appear to consigned to relegation, captain Giannis Katsikis yellow-carded for his frustrated protests at the end of the match.