DAVID SMITH - Friday, November 5, 2010
Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan both got the start for their respective teams in Europa League group action, as Villarreal slipped to third with a loss while Anderlecht remained second with a draw in Athens.
AEK Athens 1 - 1 RSC Anderlecht
Sacha Kljestan continued his revival in playing time for Anderlecht, playing the full game in midfield as they settled for a draw with AEK Athens.
The first half saw neither team looking especially dangerous, with AEK striker Ismael Blanco wasting an open shot in the seventh minute then Anderlecht's Roland Juhasz wasting a well-placed free kick by Mbark Boussoufa six minutes later.
Juhasz clumsily provided the hosts with the opportunity to take the lead three minutes into the second half as he pulled Rafik Djebbour down in the area, with Blanco easily scoring from the spot with his blast straight up the middle of goal.
The lead lasted barely five minutes, as Anderlecht stormed back and pulled even in the 54th minute after Jan Polak was the recipient of a cross from the right side by Jonathan Legear, which he poked over the line to the left of keeper Diego Saja.
The visitors kept the momentum and pushed for a winning goal, which nearly came with eight minutes remaining when Romelu Lukaku drilled a shot off the left post, but AEK held strong, leaving each team with one point.
The draw combined with Zenit St. Petersburg's 3-2 victory over Hajduk Split still leaves Anderlecht with a slight edge over AEK in the battle for second place by way of goal differential.
They will pay a visit to already-crowned group winners Zenit on December 1 with a tight three-way battle for second place still underway. In the meantime, they will host FC Brugge in Jupiler League action on Sunday.
PAOK Thessaloniki 1 - 0 Villarreal CF
Jozy Altidore was included in Villarreal's starting lineup on Thursday night on their visit to PAOK Thessaloniki, however he was unable to help the team put away their chances as they fell by a single goal.
Altidore figured into Villarreal's early scoring chance, drawing a foul in the opening minute on the right, setting up a free kick which Angel Lopez headed just over the crossbar.
Altidore stayed on the attack, forcing Pablo Contreras into a yellow card after 13 minutes.
PAOK had the better run of things for the majority of the game, although both teams were able to show their teeth to keep their opponents on their toes.
Altidore left the game just past the hour mark in favor of Guiseppe Rossi, although the stout PAOK defense nevertheless continued to limit their visitors.
The hosts eventually grabbed the ultimate winner with 20 minutes left in the contest, when Vierinha scored with a glancing header off of a corner from Pablo Garcia.
Villarreal pressured extensively in the closing minutes hoping to salvage a draw, but the final whistle blew awarding the three points to the hosts.
With the loss, Villarreal now occupy third place in Group D, however everything is still up for grabs as they trail PAOK and Dinamo Zagreb by only a single point.
They will host Zagreb on December 2 before visiting last-place Brugge two weeks later. First they return to their La Liga schedule, where they will host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Freddy Adu is not a part of FC Aris' 25-man Group Stage roster and did not suit up for the team's 1-0 loss at group leaders Bayer Leverkusen.