Panathinaikos managed to negotiate Group F to finish in second place behind Galatasaray after the greens defeated Romanian outfit Dinamo Buchurest.
AEK meanwhile, are out of the Europa League after losing 2-1 to Benfica in Portugal.
Panathinaikos 3 Dinamo Buchurest (ROM) 0
Djibril Cisse scored two late goals as Panathinaikos FC beat FC Dinamo 1948 Bucuresti 3-0 to secure second in Group F, earning Nikolaos Nioplias a charmed introduction to the UEFA Europa League.
Needing two goals to progress at their opponents’ expense Dinamo went on the attack, hitting the crossbar for a second time before Cisse struck twice himself in the last ten minutes to see Panathinaikos through.
The greens needed only to avoid defeat to be certain of a place in Friday’s round of 32 draw, but with recently-installed coach Nioplias’s pre-match talk of victory ringing in their ears, they began with great intensity.
For all their dominance, the Greek side almost went in at half-time 1-0 down.
A free-kick from distance looked innocuous enough, but nobody tracked Marius Niculae’s overlapping run and the Dinamo captain’s cross found Ousmane N’Doye at the back post, Alexandros Tzorvas tipping his header against the crossbar.
Dinamo went down fighting, completely changing tack as solid defence made way for attacking fluidity.
Before the hour Tzorvas just did enough to divert Gabriel Tamas’s vicious half-volley against the bar, and Adrian Cristea also tested the keeper from distance.
Cisse allayed home fears, however, heading in substitute Sebastian Leto’s cross from the left and then, five minutes later, steering in a right-wing centre from another replacement, Dimitris Salpingidis.
Benfica (POR) 2 AEK 1
AEK bowed out of the 2009/10 Europa League after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Benfica, who made it five wins from six in Group I.
The Portuguese giants avenged their Matchday 2 defeat by AEK thanks to two goals from Angel Di Maria.
Di Maria struck on 45 and 73 minutes in the Portuguese capital, his second an audacious finish which lit up an otherwise low-key encounter.
Ismael Blanco reduced the arrears six minutes from time for the section’s bottom-placed side, the only goal Jorge Jesus’s team conceded at home in the group stage.
A quiet opening sprang into life after 13 minutes when AEK right-back Carlos Araujo conceded a penalty for bundling over Nuno Gomes as the striker attempted to get on the end of a cross from the right.
Faced with the chance to register his first European goal of the season, Felipe Menezes, however, placed his spot-kick against the post.
The Eagles had rarely been troubled but they received a warning when Blanco forced goalkeeper Julio Cesar to shovel his effort against the woodwork just before the half-hour.
Di Maria had been the leading assist maker in the competition prior to Matchday 6 without registering a goal of his own, a statistic which changed on the stroke of half-time.
The Argentinean midfielder cut inside from the right and let fly a left-footed effort which skipped off the turf in front of goalkeeper Sebastian Saja and into the far corner.
AEK could not contain Di Maria for much longer, as he ran on to Carlos Martins’ through ball, jinked inside Nikos Georgeas and beat the onrushing Saja with a cheeky piece of skill.
Blanco’s strike six minutes from time, finishing off Georgeas’ cut back, prevented Benfica from ending the group stage with the best defensive record in the tournament.
AEK leave the inaugural Europa League with only one win and one draw from the six group stage matches.