AEK FC continued its impressive preseason tour of Sydney defeating Blackburn Rovers 2-1 at the saturated Sydney Football Stadium on Wednesday.
AEK’s Aussie attacker Nathan Burns was impressive for the Athens club, having a hand in both goals as AEK looked too good for their English Premier League opponents.
Played in abominable conditions, a small but hardy contingent of AEK fans from all over Australia sung non-stop for their beloved team, who rewarded them with two first half goals.
Burns played a leading role in Ignacio Scocco’s 21st-minute opener, with a pacey run down the right wing before turning inside Rovers defender Phil Jones and squaring the ball beautifully across the box.
Nikos Liberopoulos then gave a delightful back heel flick as the ball found its way to Scocco who curled the ball past the helpless Blackburn goalkeeper Paul Robinson.
It was a goal that AEK thoroughly deserved for their attacking flair despite the heavy conditions.
Fans had barely taken their seat when Burns was again involved three minutes later. Combining with Scocco, the Argentine striker this time turned into the provider as he squared for Liberopoulos to turn home and extend AEK’s lead.
AEK continued its dominance in the hard-fought match and should have gone 3-0 up through the lively Burns.
A wonderful through ball broke the Rovers offside trap allowing Burns to scamper through on goal. However, Robinson was on hand to deny Burns as he slid out to claim the ball off the midfielders toe.
Minutes later and AEK carved through the Rovers backline once more and Liberopoulos should have scored his second, but missed from just 12 yards.
With 81 minutes Rovers pulled a goal back as Jones headed home a wonderful cross from Morten Gamst Pedersen, a second half substitute.
Burns, playing in an unfamiliar lone striking role, said he was glad to get a chance to convince Bajevic to keep him with the team for the new season.
“It’s my first start since coming back into the team so every chance I get I’ve got to make an impression to try and crack this team,” Burns said.
“Obviously you see a lot of talent out there.
“We’ve got a strong squad so I’ve got to try my best every game.”
”I actually chose to go on loan – I asked the coach and he said yes and he’s told me since then he’s noticed a lot of changes in the past 12 months and since I’ve come back,” Burns said.
”It was a great experience for myself and yes, it was a big risk going to the second division. I know the media criticised me but I felt I did well, scoring eight goals and helping them get promoted, so I feel pretty happy about moving. I learned a lot and now I want to show that to AEK.”
AEK tops of the Sydney Festival of Football table with 13 points having also won its first match 5-3 over A-League champions Sydney FC. The tournament rewards attacking football by giving an additional point for each goal scored along with three points per win.
AEK’s second win in as many games in the tournament means that a draw with Scottish giants Rangers on Sunday will assure them top spot on the ladder and the reported 100,000 Euro winnings.