BY STEVE MITCHELL
After deposing of holders Liverpool in round one of this seasonâ€™s European Cup, Nottingham Forest took a huge stride towards the quarter-finals of the competition with a 2-1 win in Greece against AEK Athens.
In what looked on paper to be a difficult tie for the English champions, first-half goals from skipper John McGovern and Garry Birtles put Brian Cloughâ€™s team in the driving seat ahead of the return at the City Ground in two weeksâ€™ time.
Forest were ahead as early as the tenth minute after good work from Tony Woodcock on the left. The England man put in a cross which AEK goalkeeper Lakis Stergioudas failed to deal with leaving McGovern to slot the ball into an empty net.Embed from Getty Images
Worse was to come for the home side when they lost midfielder Milton Viera just 12 minutes later following an altercation with Kenny Burns. The Uruguayan lost his head picking up a second yellow card to leave manager Ferenc Puskas fuming on the sidelines.
Having the man advantage prompted the visitors to try to finish the tie off in the Nikos Goumas Stadium. On the stroke of half-time, they effectively did this when full-back Frank Clark set off on a run down the left before crossing for Birtles to get his second goal of the competition. The 20-year-old has been on fire since being picked up from non-league football by Clough earlier in the season.
Puskas must have wished he could have come on in the second-half for the hosts but credit to the Greek champions, who never gave up fighting for something to take to Nottingham for the second-leg.Embed from Getty Images
Their hard work was finally rewarded just before the hour mark when Burns brought down Thomas Mavros in the penalty area. The Scot was lucky not to receive a second yellow card for the foul which would have seen him also taking an early bath having been involved in the incident which led to Vieraâ€™s dismissal; Tassos Constantinou made no mistake from the spot to give AEK hope for the return leg.
After the game Clough was reluctant to declare the tie all but over but Forest fans will be confident that their side can see off the Greek challenge once and for all on their own patch. The win, however, will prove to any doubters that England has another great chance of continuing its stranglehold on European club footballâ€™s biggest prize and that the First Division champions will be in the draw for the last eight.
AEK Athens: Stergioudas, Mousouris, Intzoglou ( Damianidis 31), Ravousis, Nikolaou (C), Viera, Constantinou (Tsamis 72), Nikoloudis, Bajevic, Ardizoglou, Mavros
Nottingham Forest: Shilton, Anderson, Clark, McGovern (C), Lloyd, Burns, Bowyer, Gemmill, Birtles, Woodcock, Robertson
EUROPEAN CUP â€“ SECOND ROUND FIRST-LEG
Rangers 0-0 PSV Eindhoven
CUP-WINNERS-CUP â€“ SECOND ROUND FIRST-LEG
Fortuna Dusseldorf 3- 0 Aberdeen (Gunther 2, Zimmermann)
Ipswich Town 1-0 SW Innsbruck (Wark) (Full match programme available below)
UEFA CUP â€“ SECOND ROUND FIRST-LEG
Everton 2-1 Dukla Prague (Latchford, King)
Hajduk Split 2-1 Arsenal (Cop, Djordjevic; Brady)
Manchester City 4-0 Standard Liege (Hartford, Kidd 2, 1 pen, Palmer)
Sporting Braga 0-2 W.B.A. (Regis 2)
Strasbourg 2-0 Hibernian (Gemmrich, Piasecki)
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PROGRAMMES COURTESY OF MILES MCCLAGAN https://www.flickr.com/photos/114058793@N05/sets