On the other hand, over this period AEK has regularly participated in European cups. Although the Greeks haven`t made it to the final, they did get to the quarterfinals more than once. The last time was in the spring of 2003. Since then they`ve usually finished their European play in the fall.
Nevertheless, AEK can be considered to be an experienced club on the European arena. Over the last 20 years the club hasn`t gone a single year without playing for European trophies. But again, they haven`t had any serious victories over those years.
Zenit - AEK, the fourth meeting
Zenit first played against AEK in the fall of 2004. Only four players remain in the Zenit side from that time: Malafeyev, Denisov, Kerzhakov, and Bystrov. The last two, as is well known, have played in other teams since then.
That said AEK`s side has changed even more over recent years. Only one player remains from the last meeting between the two teams: the 35 year-old striker Nikos Liberopulos. Since his first meeting with Zenit Liberopulos has twice been named best player of the Greek Championship, the league`s top scorer, and played for two years in Germany.
The last meeting with AEK was also played at Petrovsky Stadium, in October of 2004, as part of the UEFA Cup. The score was 1:0 already in the 3rd minute… in favor of the Greeks. These numbers stayed on the board almost right until halftime, when Andrey Arshavin scored an arrogant goal using the outside of his foot. The stands at Petrovsky went wild, and the team finally came alive.
Whatever the Zenit coach Vlastimil Petrzela said at half time, it had a big effect. Zenit showed an entirely different game in the second half. Zenit lead attack after attack on the Greek goal, and the AEK defense burst at the seams. Alexander Kerzhakov scored his first European hat trick in just a 20 minute stretch in the second half. Everything worked for Zenit, and the Greeks were simply driven off the field. The final goal was scored by Igor Denisov in the 86th minute.
5:1 – that was the score of Zenit`s first meeting with AEK. Later on Zenit played the Greeks in the UEFA Cup qualification round in 2005/06, but there would be no more fireworks like in the debut match. The two teams played a draw in Petersburg (0:0), then won away in Athens 1:0, thereby qualifying for the UEFA Cup.