AEK 4-0 Panionios

Posted in AEK Players, Champions League, AEK, AEK Athens FC with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2018 by alexaek

Last week’s Superleague match ended 1-0 for AEK in Tripolis. While it was a good result for us considering our lack of wins in Tripolis, the performance wasn’t the most inspiring. Today’s match against Panionios on the other hand was quite the opposite. Aside from the emphatic scoreline, we also saw an AEK that was calm, organized, and able to perfectly execute their game plan.

Livaja had an off day to say the least. Livaja from a few games back would have easily put away one or two of his chances but yesterday he just wasn’t himself. Perhaps he was still getting over the emotional high from featuring for the Croatian national team just a few days ago but it was obvious his mind wasn’t fully in the game. I’m not too worried though keeping in mind the great form he has been in since last season.

Aside from Livaja, the entire team looked sharp. Barkas had little to do since our defense, particularly Bakakis, Lambropoulos, and Chygrinskiy all looked very solid and calm under pressure. In fact has AEK365 accurately put it, Barkas “had the best ticket in the stadium”. Essentially he was a spectator for the entire match, though I doubt he could complain about that.

Our midfield was solid, controlling the pace of the game for the entire 90 minutes. Mantalos looked particularly good, lively with his feet and delivering good balls to the box in typical Mantalos fashion. I was yet again impressed by Alef as well. For a fairly young player, he shows a lot of composure when he has the ball at his feet. What I find especially noteworthy is that he knows exactly when to risk a bit and bring the ball forward, and when to play the safe route with a safer pass.

Our attack was, as the scoreline suggested, especially clinical. I’ll be honest, I was a bit worried when we had much of the control for the first half but continued struggling to find the back of the net. When Ponce broke the deadlock seconds before half time though, everything seemed to click from that point on. The highlight of our offense however was Klonaridis, coming on as a substitute 81st minute but managing to find the net twice. His form has been phenomenal lately and if this keeps up, we’ll have a lot more to look forward to from him.

This result couldn’t have come at a better time with our first Champions League group stage match coming up this week. AEK will travel to Amsterdam where they will take on Ajax and to be completely honest, I fully believe we can sneak away with a draw or maybe even a win. Ajax are strong, don’t get me wrong. But this AEK team have shown that they can make the opposition struggle to find space and they seem to have found a system that works for them. It won’t be easy, but I’m certainly looking forward to this match!

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Champions League Draw Results

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , , on August 30, 2018 by alexaek

The moment many of us have been waiting for, the draw for this season’s Champions League Group Stages, took place earlier today. The result: we’ll be up against Bayern Munich, Benfica, and Ajax. While it was impossible to foresee an “easy” draw, I’m pretty excited about this one. Obviously the games against Bayern will be especially tough, I feel like we have a chance to snag a few points from our games against Benfica and Ajax. Do we have a chance to go through to the knockout rounds? Sure. Are we favourites? Of course not, but its hard to say any of the teams aside from Bayern are favourites to advance.

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Exciting times lie ahead for sure and regardless of the outcome, I think its safe to say that its going to be be great to finally watch AEK in the Champions League again. This year’s campaign will start off in Amsterdam on the 19th of September as we take on Ajax, last season’s Eredivisie runner ups. Hmm, I’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam…

Oh, and it seems like the players are also pretty excited about what lies ahead this season:

CL Group Stage Bound! (AEK 1-1 MOL Vidi)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Draw, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2018 by alexaek

Twelve years since our last appearance in the Champions League group stages and we are finally heading back! It might not have been pretty but ultimately the team managed to accomplish what they set out to accomplish so far.

By most accounts it actually wasn’t a great game on our part. We managed to find our way ahead thanks to a well taken Mantalos penalty shot but Vidi managed to equalize not too long after and for much of the remainder of the game, we were left wondering if Vidi might even find a way to force the game to extra time. Without a strong performance from Barkas, Vidi could have definitely found the back of the net yet again.

Luckily though, we managed to hold onto the draw in front of nearly 40,000 rain drenched supporters. Unfortunately however, we didn’t escape unscathed. Not only did we lose Lopez towards the end of the match with a red card, but Livaja also received a red card after the final whistle had blown. Of course, this means we’ll be without two key players for the next match at least although it looks like there might even be the chance of Livaja receiving a further one or two game ban. This would be, to say the least, a huge blow for us considering how huge a role he has played for us in terms of offense. I guess the one bright side is that it might give one of our recent singings a big opportunity but its definitely not a great situation to find ourselves in.

Regardless, we’ve done it. For the next few months at least we will be watching AEK play against some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The draw for the Group Stage will take place this coming thursday and as expected, we might be drawn against some big names. Looking at the list of possible opponents, its hard to really find one that I would prefer to play against over another. Of course there are the typical favourites but every possible opponent could be a huge challenge. The total list of possible teams in our group is as follows.

First pot: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Manchester City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Second pot: Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma

Third pot: Liverpool, Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, Salzburg, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Eindhoven

As you can see, from the first pot all the way to the third, theres nothing but tough opposition. I honestly can’t even chose a single team out of that list that I would consider an “easier” opponent aside from possibly Lokomotiv or Salzburg but even those two sides will be extremely tough to play against. Regardless, it will still be great fun in either case and considering our strong form in Europe lately, I see no reason to not be up for the challenge.

AEK 2-0 PAS Giannena

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , on August 25, 2018 by alexaek

Goals from Livaja and Ponce ensured that AEK got off to the best start possible for this season’s Championship campaign. Had luck been on our side, the score could easily have been higher for us especially considering a fairly clear penalty wasn’t called in our favour. In either case, it was a solid outing from the team and the expected three points were exactly what we needed to ensure our run of good form continues.

Livaja had a noteworthy day today after not only scoring the second goal, but doing well to set up the first one. Ponce also looked particularly promising, scoring the opener but also finding himself involved in a number of other chances. If Ponce and Livaja continue to link up well as we saw today, we might see the start of a great attacking pairing. Memories of the Livaja-Araujo attacking duo? I’m definitely seeing it so far.

Defensively the game went as expected. PAS made their way forward from time to time but never really managed to look particularly threatening. Overall there was very little to complain about with the team but its safe to say the first true test of the league will come next week when we head south to Tripolis. Of course before that we face Vidi for the second leg of our Champions League qualifying tie early next week. We can’t take anything for granted, but I see no reason for our run of form to end against the Hungarian side and if all goes to plan, we’ll be celebrating our return to the Champions League group stages by next Tuesday evening!

MOL Vidi 1-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Greek Soccer with tags , , , on August 22, 2018 by alexaek

With a win and two away goals for AEK in Hungary today, its safe to say we’re looking even more likely to book our place in the Group stages of the Champions League. All in all a great result for us as we now clearly have the upper hand for the return leg in Athens. It could be said though that perhaps we could have even expected more out of the match.

MOL Vidi were playing with ten men for the majority of the match after Huszti was sent off early on for a dangerous tackle on Bakasetas and we certainly had our chances to capitalize even further. In either case, two away goals is huge going forward and considering our form at home, I struggle to think of scenario where we end up giving up this lead.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news as we also ended up receiving a red card as well, this time with Bakasetas on the other end of it. Bakasetas had a busy day for himself because aside from being involved with two red card plays, he also scored the second goal for us. It was a rather beautiful goal, finding himself in front of the net with some space to set himself up for a shot which took a slight deflection on its way to the back of the net.

The first goal was a tap in following a saved Simoes shot, slotted into the net by Klonaridis. Klonaridis, who also scored against Celtic, seems to be finding himself some good form as of late and if this keeps up, he might be just the kind of player we needed to take Araujo’s spot.

Today’s win, aside from setting us up in a great position for the next match, also broke the previous record unbeaten streak in Europe for a Greek side. The previous record (also held by AEK) was at 12 games but today’s win means we are now 13 games undefeated in European play. In all likelihood that record will extend to 14 games by next Tuesday. Next week’s game is scheduled to take place at 3:00 PM Eastern Time (8:00 PM Athens time) and considering what is at stake come next game, I’m hoping for an excellent atmosphere at OAKA!

AEK 2-1 Celtic (3-2 Aggregate)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2018 by alexaek

Well there we have it, after two close encounters AEK are through to the playoff round of the Champions League qualifiers. It wasn’t always easy as Celtic definitely tried to create something offensively but we managed to hold on when it mattered most to come out with the win.

It was the perfect start for AEK, going up 1-0 following a rather straight forward finish from Galo. Just as last week in Glasgow, the Celtic defenders offered us way too much space in their own box and Galo didn’t hesitate to take advantage after latching onto Hult’s ball in.

Celtic’s defending then let them down again when they failed to handle a set play from AEK just five minutes into the second half. Galo was involved again, sending the ball into the box which Lambropoulos managed to head towards an open Livaja who managed to ease the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 for AEK at this point and the match was almost all but settled.

Some tense moments did follow though as Celtic managed to pull one back. At this point one more goal for them would have put them ahead on Aggregate and through to the next round but just as in Glasgow last week, the team managed to soak up the pressure while failing to succumb to multiple Celtic attacks.

It was yet another huge night and a sign that things might be going our way again this season, even if its still early. One nice fact to take away from the game is that our unbeaten streak in Europe continues for at least another two games following our good run in the Europa League last year.

Of course, the work isn’t all done yet. We still have to get past Hungarian side before we can cement our place in the Group stages. Needless to say, our confidence will be high heading into the encounter with Vidi and we will most likely head into the two matches as favourites to progress.

It was a good night for Greek football overall as PAOK also progressed through to the playoff round. Unfortunately their path to the group stages will be considerably tougher as they will have to overcome Benfica to make it through, but that doesn’t mean its impossible. I can’t confirm if a date and time for our first match against Vidi has been confirmed but I believe it will most likely take place next week, on the 21st of August.

I know its still early, but I’m starting to get excited at the prospect of seeing AEK in the Champions League group stages again. Hopefully more nights like these are to come:

Celtic 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , on August 8, 2018 by alexaek

Thanks to a late first half equalizer by Klonaridis, we managed to close out the night in Glasgow with a crucial away goal and a draw that leaves us in a great position to advance. It wasn’t the prettiest of matches from an AEK perspective and it sounded like we got off to a sluggish start, but all things considered we have to be quite happy with where we find ourselves.

Celtic got on the scoreboard first after McGregor managed to finish from a tight angle. At that point I started to fear for more to come since the commentary I was following along with didn’t sound all that promising. Thankfully though, we slowly turned things around a bit and while Celtic always managed to keep the upper hand, a defensive breakdown by Celtic was enough for Klonaridis to tuck away the crucial away goal. We had our chances apart from the goal but by all accounts it sounds as though Celtic controlled most of the match, something that would have been expected.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good news though. Galanopoulos, after having already received a yellow, found himself in trouble when he was sent off for a second card. The ejection was, to be quite honest, an awful call. There was no contact at all between Galanopoulos and Celtic’s Forest as the Scot fell to ground in what could have only been a dive or a trip up from his own feet. I could understand that the ref had a tough angle and a foul wouldn’t be a surprise but to give a red card for that is pretty disappointing. Thankfully, the decision didn’t seem to affect us to much as we still managed to hold on for the draw.

 

Both teams still have everything to play for and despite the away goal for us, 1-1 still leaves no room for error on our part. We saw that Celtic are capable of controlling the pace of the game when they want to but I have no reason to be anything less than optimistic about our chances of going through. The heat of Athens, the fact that we’ve now seen how Celtic play first hand, and the advantage of playing in front of our own supporters all leave us looking good for next week’s encounter in Athens.