Sorry for the delay for this one. AEKMAN74 posted a good summary of the game which you can check out as well.
Well, my Father and I decided that since I only have half a year left in Greece before I, unfortunately, have to return to North America for university (don’t get me wrong, I love North America, I just don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay away from AEK) we’d go up to Thessaloniki and watch this one so I could experience a proper away game.
In the end it turned out to be a great experience, one which fortunately had little trouble between the AEK and Iraklis supporters. It was very cold up north, with some people even saying it was going to snow, but that did not take anything away from the excitement and the atmosphere that night. Around 1,800 AEK supporters showed up from all over the country (some from Athens, a particularly loud bunch of guys from Serres, some local supporters from Thessaloniki) and they created a rather festive mood, despite our team’s far from spectacular form.
Thanks to the wonderful planning from the guys over at Superleague, the PAOK game (which they won 1-0 against Tripolis) was ending at the same time Iraklis supporters were heading to the stadium. Of course, this resulted in a number of clashes but it thankfully never reached the AEK supporters.
Below are a couple of pictures I took from the game.
Considering there wasn't a huge number of them they made a fair bit of noise.
We made some noise ourselves
A view of the stadium before the match
Now, for the match itself. In the past three years we’ve won in this stadium (all 1-0 wins) but it’s never been easy. I honestly didn’t expect this one to be easy as well. Before the match, if I had known this would have ended in a draw I would have been relieved.
Unfortunately, however, we could have left Thessaloniki with all three points to place ourselves in fifth. Sure, Iraklis also could have done the same but there is little doubt that overall, we were the better team.
We lined up with a lineup similar to that which we fielded against Oly. Arabatzis as ‘keeper, Araujo, Majstorovic, Geraldo Alves, and Georgeas took care of the defense, Kafes and Jahic were the defensive midfielders with Manduca and Scocco taking the offensive midfield roles, and Blanco and Djebbour were upfront. A pretty solid lineup considering what we have to work with.
Our problem last week was our lack of a midfield, due mostly to the exclusion of Kafes (injury) and Jahic (too many yellow cards). Immediately, a difference was seen on Saturday with those two guys, especially Kafes, back in the midfield. They stopped the Iraklis counters early or at least stalled them for our defense, and they helped to drastically improve the transition of the ball from defense to the attackers. Honestly, from where we were sitting the view was terrible, so I don’t know how much of a role these two midfielders actually played, but I do know that were getting the ball up much more effectively than last week.
Arabatzis had a good game but could do little to stop Kone’s (yes, the former AEK player who refused to celebrate out of respect; he says he still has very fond memories of his time at AEK) fantastic shot.I think very few ‘keepers would come close to saving it. Arabatzis did make another save in the dying minutes of the game, just like against Oly, to keep us in it, so he certainly deserves credit.
Our defense was good. They were beaten often on the 1-on-1′s but they were quite solid when it came to stopping the counter attacks which was mandatory with this Iraklis team. Unfortunately, Araujo got a red card for his second yellow late in the match but the boys were forced to play rough or else there would have been no stopping Iraklis.
I already mentioned our defensive midfielders but the more attacking guys, Scocco and Manduca, also did their job. They got the ball up and dangerously close on another of occasions and only a lack of either luck or concentration (or, of course, both) kept us from scoring another goal or two.
Blanco was not the main man in our attack on Saturday. That honor would have to go, without a doubt, to Djebbour. He scored a fantastic goal (which I will post further down) and was dangerous, as we’ve been seeing these past two weeks, when on the ball. It’s a shame he wasn’t here the first half of the season, we really could have used him.
I’m just dreaming of when Nemeth will return and play with us (if he ever does come back). Nemeth and Djebbour, with Blanco ready on the bench, would be deadly for any team. With Pao’s weak defense, these guys could easily do some damage in two weeks.
One thing which many noticed from this game was our playing style. I don’t know what it was, but the whole team was playing with a fantastic fluidity. We were passing the ball nicely, there was alot of one touch passing going on, it was overall a nice style of football we saw. We really did play some good football and only due to luck didn’t come away with a win. As everyone has been saying in the press, AEK was the better team on the pitch that night, even though Iraklis did come very close to scoring on a number of occasions.
Now, some highlights.
As you will notice, Djebbour missed a penalty…with three minutes of time remaining! I really don’t know what he was attempting with that shot, but he really should have done better. He apologized to the fans but that really isn’t enough. He had a solid chance to place us firmly in fifth spot but it was wasted. Hopefully, he learned his lesson and won’t try a stupid shot like that again. By they way, Blanco had already been subbed off by this time which is why he didn’t take the kick.
Well, fortunately, Kavala tied 0-0, once again, with Oly. This is the ideal result for AEK since it now keeps them two points behind us. It also leaves Olympiakos now trailing Pao by seven points, meanwhile they are only ahead of PAOK by three. I’m loving it.
The Oly fans (10,000 of them were allowed to go up to Kavala) caused a bunch of trouble in the city and the stadium, running around like a bunch of hooligans, running on to the pitch numerous times, and clashing with police. Of course, if this was a fair league, they would have been punished for their disgusting hooliganism (that’s all they’ve ever been). At least one home match without fans would have been the norm (that would mean no fans at home when they play PAOK at home next weekend… considering how terrible they played yesterday I would have said a sure win for PAOK there), if not more, and perhaps a heavy fine. Of course, we know this isn’t a fair league, and they will get away with no punishment at all.