A day after earning a Caltex Socceroos recall, striker Apostolos Giannou has put in a man-of-the-match performance to send his club into the UEFA Europa League.
After the first leg against Slovakian outfit Trencin ended 1-1, Giannou bagged a brace as his AEK Larnaca won 3-0 on Friday morning (AEST) to advance to the UEFA Europa League group stage.
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Giannou opened the scoring inside the first minute, getting on the end of a clever pass in behind the defence before shooting low across the keeper into the far corner.
Acoran Reyes doubled the lead for the Cypriots before the break, with Giannou then icing the result with his second midway through the second half.
The 28-year-old was in the right place at the right time to head in from close range to round out a huge night for the club.
Giannou will be joined in the draw for the group stage by a few of other Aussies, including Caltex Socceroos keeper Danny Vukovic.
Despite conceding twice away from home against Danish side Brondby, Vukovic’s Genk won 4-2 on the night to advance 9-4 on aggregate.
Tom Rogic’s Celtic are also through following a convincing 3-0 win over Suduva in Glasgow, wrapping up a 4-1 aggregate win.
Rogic was an unused substitute for the Hoops ahead of their Old Firm Derby against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers this weekend.
Left-back Alex Gersbach watched from the bench as his Rosenborg won 2-0 over Shkendija in Macedonia, progressing with a 5-2 aggregate win.
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But there was disappointment for Awer Mabil, with his FC Midtjylland losing 2-0 at home against Swedish club Malmo.
Mabil, who earned a call-up to Graham Arnold’s 31-man squad for a training camp in Turkey next week, came on for the last 15 minutes of the defeat, which saw the Danish club lose 4-2 on aggregate.
The draw for the Europa League group stage will be held on Saturday morning (AEST).
Meanwhile, Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Brad Jones has made a winning start to the season for Al-Nassr as the Saudi Pro League got underway.
Al-Nassr won 2-1 on the road against Ohod, with Moroccan Nordin Amarabat coming off the bench to score a 96th-minute winner.
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