So Friday evening comes and PAO draws 1-1 with Xanthi at home. Saturday evening comes and Iraklis beat Olympiakos 2-1. Looks like Sunday may turn out to be a pretty good day I was thinking…
and then AEK loses 2-1 to Kerkyra.
The game was played in Patra since Kerkyra’s stadium was not yet up to Superleague standards. A large number of AEK fans from around Greece filled a few gates anticipating a good result and a positive start to the season. Dellas and Lybe were back in the starting 11 and to be honest, most AEK fans I heard from were expecting a fairly easy win.
We started the match in a strong position, controlling possession, moving the ball up, laying off some nice runs, and at times coming agonizingly close to scoring. Then, completely out of the blue, Diop slipped on the grass leaving his man wide open and with enough time to launch a deadly curving shot right past Saja’s fingertips. 1-0 Kerkyra. One shot, one goal…
We picked ourselves up again but it was clear the team had taken a blow. We struggled to establish much of a rhythm, Leonardo was not at his best, Djebbour disappeared at times from the game, and chances were becoming more and more scarce. Half time came a t a good time.
Alright, second half starts. The score is only 1-0, definitely enough time to score and equalizer and score the winner. Afterall, you would think that would be fairly easy with an offense of Djebbour, Libe, Scocco, Leonardo, and both Blanco and Burns on the bench. Sure, these guys may not have the scoring abilities of Rooney or Drogba, but they are all above average for the standard in Greece. Surely, they can score a couple of goals against a team like Kerkyra?? Where am I going wrong here?
Well, turns out they all forgot how to finish a chance off ever since that game with Sydney FC over the summer. We pressured throughout the second, and despite playing some unattractive football at times, created chance after chance but failed to score each and every time. Djebbour and Leonardo both had a number of good opportunities in front of the net, Blanco was caught waiting for a pass in a good position (and with half the net open) but the ball never was passed to him, and it wasn’t until a bullet of a shot from Djebbour off a freekick did we manage to score. The score was already 2-0 for Kerkyra at this time and it seemed quite obvious we wouldn’t leave with much to be happy about.
Our starting lineup consisted of Saja (considering how few shots he had on him and the number of goals scored, not his best game), Jahic (pretty poor game, tried to get more involved but just doesn’t have the technique required), Manolas and Dellas (both did what they had to do when they were needed, for the most part), Karabelas (considering it was his first game in a while, played alright, but as usual nothing special), Scocco (started off strong but became uninterested as the match progressed, and lacked concentration in front of the net), Diop (very poor game, and I’m starting to loose faith in this guy), Kafes (average game at best, made some mistakes along with Diop), Leonardo (not nearly as good as he was in Scotland), Libe (seemed to be putting his heart into the game, was involved in many plays up front, had some chances to score and took a few shots), and Djebbour (scored, came close to scoring on other occasions, maybe a bit too selfish at times).
Burns, Blanco, and Eder were our subs (Diop, Leonardo, and Scocco came off for them). Burns had a good game against his team from last season, and delivered some great crosses, even when under pressure. Blanco did what he could, but if given some better passes could have been more threatening (by the way, this was his first season without scoring in the first game). Eder, as every other time I saw him during the pre season, I was impressed by. Great technique, not too selfish, and I really believe he has the potential to become a key player for AEK.
Having said all that, its not nearly the end of the season for us. If we can tighten up in front of the net we will already be on much firmer ground. Fortunately, PAO and Oly dropped points so we’re all in the same boat. Its only the first game and things can very easily change (for better of for worse). The addition of Nasuti will help with our defense without a doubt and, if it makes anyone else feel better (I know it does for me), the new jerseys look very nice. Unfortunately, the new Kino sponsor ruins it quite a bit but hey, we need the cash.