Its been a while since I last posted, partly due to stuff piling up during these last two weeks of school, but also because I picked up a flu/food poisoning last week. Anyways, I’ve finally found some time to get together a post and really, its well overdue. Considering I expected this past week to be a rather uneventful one as everyone settled in before the playoffs, it instead turned out to be one of the more dramatic weeks we’ve seen all season. I was going to start with the most recent event, our 1-0 cup win against Atromitos, but its an awkward place to start without first mentioning some other stories from earlier on. So instead, I’ll make my way up to today, starting from about this point last week.
-It was announced that the Cup would be starting again around this time last week. No surprises really, since I think most people expected Kontonis to revert on his decision because lets face it, push comes to shove, he’d never stand up to FIFA/UEFA, just like Tsipras ultimately backed down to the IMF/EU despite trying to show the same defiant spirit. The news of the Cup restarting caused a bit of a scramble since it meant that AEK all of a sudden had another target for the season aside from the playoffs, again. Of course, Kontonis refused fans for the semi-final games (which was why our game today was played behind closed doors), and if I understood correctly, the Cup Final will be played with only students in the stands. If I remember correctly, some of the Basket Cup Finals between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos were played in a similar way. Fair enough I suppose, but it really is a drag watching a game in an empty stadium. The whole thing feels like a practice between the two sides, and I’m sure the players can’t enjoy too much either.
-We lost against Levadeiakos in our last league game of the season, and by a score of 3-0. This game took place when I spent all day on the couch and couldn’t even move because I felt so terrible, so I didn’t end up watching it and I’m probably better off this way. Unfortunately, it didn’t sound like we were playing too badly really. We were controlling most of the ball and from what I was reading, we were creating chances. Unfortunately, as has been the case for AEK far too often this season, we struggled to score. Unsurprisingly, we suffered due to our inability to score in a painful and embarrassing way, letting in two own goals minutes apart from each other. Levadeiakos finished things off after some sloppy defending and poor decision making by Baroja in the second half, scoring their third and final goal in a game that both fans and players alike will want to forget as soon as possible. It was an unfortunate result, especially since there is little a team can do to regroup after having two quick own goals conceded. To make matters worse, PAO won their game 6-1, with Berg scoring five goals himself. If this is any indication of their form going into the playoffs, we could be in trouble. I’m hoping it was just a fluke…
-A couple days after the fiasco in Livadia, AEK’s management had a meeting with Poyet’s management, in an attempt to work out a deal that would see Poyet stay on as manager. Apparently, things didn’t go to well and from what I heard, Poyet’s management was asking for four million euros a season. He was a good coach, I appreciated a lot of what I did and I appreciated the fact that he seemed to enjoy the big wins as much as what we did. But four million a season is ridiculous, considering that kind of money could be spent on some very good players. Now, that number might not even be true, but what it is clearly true is that both sides failed to come to an agreement. I wasn’t expecting an agreement this early, especially not with so many important games coming up, but apparently Poyet was.
I felt like Poyet was a very professional man and coach, I expected him to do his job until after the season and then let things get worked out. Instead, not long after the meetings took place, he came out and released an announcement on his own, saying he wouldn’t be staying with AEK past the end of the season… I understand that he might not have been too happy, maybe he was expecting more. But I really see no excuse for coming out, a day before a semi-final game, and making an announcement like that on your own.
Clearly, the team wasn’t too happy about the announcement either. Within hours, the press was saying that Poyet had been fired and it wasn’t long after when AEK officially confirmed this. I’m disappointed since I was hoping for better, but I personally felt that it was clear from a while ago that Poyet wanted to leave Greece, particularly to try his luck in England again. I don’t blame him since after-all, the Superleague is a joke, and the Premier League is pretty exciting at the moment, but I was really expecting to see him leave on better terms. Oh well, so much for that…
-Finally we end up to where we are now, that is after beating Atromitos 1-0 in the first of two semi-final matches against the team led by Dellas. Manolas was our coach today for the second time this season, and I must say I was kind of amused seeing both teams run by former AEK centre backs.
We started off well, applying the pressure, forcing Atromitos to defend, and creating some chances. At one point the possesion stat was saying something around 80 percent for AEK, and it sure seemed that way. We gave Atromitos no chances of getting into the game which I was glad to see. Our passing was controlled and Mantalos and Johansson were linking up well. Galo and Vargas were also providing some options down the wings which we took advantage of a few times. Unfortunately for us, Aravidis wasn’t providing many options up front and the times he did get the ball anywhere near him, he never really looked like scoring.
As the first half continued on, our pace dropped and it never really picked up too much in the second half. We still managed to create a couple chances, and we still never gave Atromitos too much space, but the game made it clear again that we need better players up front. Our break finally came around the 74th minute, when Aravidis sent in a gorgeous ball that was perfectly placed for Mantalos, requiring just some contact with his head to get the ball on target. It was a break we needed, since any goal we can get going into a second match with Atromitos is an important one.
I didn’t feel like we played too badly, and we can definitely get past Atromitos in the next leg also. But really need to start looking more dangerous in front of goal. I don’t know if we would have been better off starting Pekhart today, but I know Djebbour certainly isn’t an option. He came on as a sub today and provided nothing, as usual. Even when he comes up with chances that the Djebbour of five years ago would have no problem putting away, he struggles to even get a shot off anywhere near target. I don’t know what has happened to him, but he certainly is not the answer we need.