Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Europa League with tags , , , , on February 22, 2018 by alexaek

It just wasn’t our day. Chance after chance, even a couple open nets, but nothing the team did could result in that crucial away goal that could have taken us through to the next round. The storyline was similar to what we saw last week: we controlled possession, had the better chances, but ultimately came up short in the end.

I could describe what we missed today, but I don’t think words could do justice to just how close we came to scoring:

 

We started on the right foot and looked quite comfortable, moving the ball around nicely despite playing in conditions that were far colder than what most of our squad would have been used to. For some reason though, the ball just didn’t want to make its way to the back of the net.

Its hard to find an explanation really, other than just plain bad luck. Its one thing to control possession and create a few half chances but had a number of genuine goal scoring opportunities.  Surely at least one of them would have gone in on any other day.

At the end of the day though it was still a performance to be proud of over and really this might be a blessing in disguise. As much as I’d like to see us advance in the Europa League, the Championship should be our priority at this point. With a roster thats already stretched a bit thin, the fewer games we have to play between now and the end of the season the better if we want to catch PAOK in the title race.

It wasn’t a waste of a season in Europe by any means. We went undefeated in ten European games and demonstrated that we have a squad that certainly has the potential to go deeper in this tournament. With a healthy Johansson and Mantalos on the team, theres no doubt that we would have sealed our progression to the next round before the end of the first game with Dynamo. If anything, our future in Europe next season looks brighter than it has for as long as I can remember.

With a big game coming up against Atromitos on Monday, I’m hoping the missed opportunities don’t drag the team down too much. If anything, this would be a great opportunity for players such as Araujo and Masoud to get some confidence back after coming so close today.

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Where Do I Begin?

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Derby, Europa League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2018 by alexaek

What a season this has been for us AEK supporters so far. Away from the blog for one week and I have not one, not two, but three incredibly important AEK stories to discuss. Whats more is that it all took place within the span of about four days. Lets start at the beginning though:

Last Thursday we faced Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League Round of 32. The match, the first of two, took place in Athens and as I’m sure most of you know ended in a 1-1 draw. The result is a disappointing one seeing as we’ve conceded the away goal without coming away with a win, but it hardly signals the end of the road for us in Europe. A win in Kiev will guarantee we go through, but so will a 2-2 draw (or any draw really that doesn’t end 0-0 or 1-1).

I honestly have hope that we can get the result we need. We’ve already seen this team perform well with their backs against the wall this season (just look at the comeback wins against Olympiakos this season for example) and on top of that, we outplayed the Ukranians in Athens. The results might not suggest that, but we were genuinely the better team and one look at the match stats confirms that. For example, we created 14 chances (while they had 3), and 6 of our chances were on target (compared to their 1 on target). We also had 64% possession and had double the completed passes. I know this counts for little when the result isn’t favourable, but if anything it gives me hope that we have what it takes to advance.

Having said that, its worth keeping in mind that we will be without Vranjes and Livaja after they both picked up yellow cards, and both those absences will be a huge loss for us. Being without Livaja is something we could live with, but missing Vranjes will leave a gap for sure, so hopefully both Lambropoulos and Chyrgrinskiy are ready come kick off.

Apologies for the poor quality highlights, it was all I could really find on youtube:

 

To help us get over the disappointment in the Europa League from a few days prior, our Basketball club took part in the Greek Cup final on Saturday against Olympiakos. This was our first chance of winning the Cup since 2001 and our first chance of winning any silverware since 2002 so needless to say, there was a lot of expectation. On top of that, its been a rather celebratory year for the team as they’ve been celebrating the team’s 50th Anniversary since winning  the Cup Winner’s Cup and in the process becoming the first Greek team to win a European trophy in a major sport. Needless to say, the stage was set for what was bound to be a tight game and neither team disappointed.

Ultimately, we were able to do more than enough to come out on top after having thoroughly outplayed Olympiakos. It was a close game throughout but it was clear AEK we’re the stronger side for most of the game as I can only remember one point at which Olympiakos had the lead. Having said that, both teams played a great game and it was one of the more enjoyable basketball games I’ve watched this season, made even more enjoyable thanks to our 88-83 win. Its yet another win against Olympiakos across both Football and Basketball as we also beat Olympiakos’ basketball team earlier this season.

As was to be expected, the team’s reception at the Airport in Athens as they returned from Crete was quite the party:

And for those who didn’t get the chance to watch the match, it can be watched in its entirety here:

 

The weekend only got better from that point on as next up was our football match against Xanthi. Now, a league game at home against a respectable but non-threatening opponent would normally not be cause for much celebration but what happened during our 4-0 win was something worth noting. In fact, it was downright historic. Why you might ask? It all comes down to the fact that Vranjes, a centre back, had scored a hat trick by the 33rd minute. Never in the history of 1st division Greek football has a centre back scored a hat trick. Even Vranjes himself has never scored more than 3 goals in an entire season yet here he was, scoring 3 goals in 33 minutes.

Amazing really, and even more amazing when you consider some of the great centre backs we’ve had over the years: Manolas, Dellas, and Papastathopoulos are just a few that come to mind. Almost equally amazing is the fact that its been over ten years since someone scored a hat trick for AEK: the last time that happened was when Liberopoulos scored 3 in a 5-2 win over Aigaleo back in 2007.

The win, as is every win from this point onwards, was huge for us as PAOK won yet again, meaning they’re still 2 points up on us. They have two tough games coming up followed by their match against us so as long as we can keep the pressure on, theres a very good chance we can find ourselves in the lead in a few weeks time.

AEK 1-0 Asteras Tripolis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer, Injuries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2018 by alexaek

After two straight wins against Olympiakos, AEK would have gone in to today’s game against Tripolis knowing the 3 points were anything but guaranteed. Sure enough, we had a much harder time today though I would argue a lot of that came from bad luck rather rather than having anything to do with the opponent we were facing.

Bearing that in mind, it didn’t help that Athanasiadis had what might have been one of the best games of his career in nets for Tripolis. What really made this match a struggle for us though was the inability of players like Araujo and Livaja to finish plays which they normally would have no problem scoring on.

It was absurd really, but the ball just didn’t want to go in. We had a lucky break when we were awarded a penalty (rightfully so I might add) which Lazaros was able to put away, otherwise I’m not sure we would have scored any other way. I still cannot wrap my head around what I saw from Araujo today. After scoring one of the nicest goals of the season earlier this week, there was nothing he could do today to get the ball in the net. Aside from missing a relatively easy header and having another post later in the match, his strangest miss came early on in the match. A simple cross in from Masoud was dangerously deflected by an Asteras defender and was heading right for the open net when Araujo inexplicably tried to kick the ball into the net. Understandable as he was just looking to guide it a little more but the result of his attempt was the ball hitting the crossbar and floating harmlessly away from goal. The worst part about the whole play is that had Araujo simply not even touched the ball, it would have gone in on its own without a doubt.

Its one of those plays thats simply too hard to even understand, but I suppose its forgivable considering what Araujo has done for us so far. To be honest I’d rather he miss today and get it out of his system, considering we got the win, if it means he’ll be having some better luck for our match against Dynamo Kiev in a few days time.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible match by any stretch. Tripolis are always a tricky opponent so any win is a win I’ll take, even more so considering Olympiakos’ draw against Atromitos earlier today. The good news from today’s game is that we’re now first, at least until tomorrow when that could change depending on PAOK’s result against Larissa. The bad news from today’s game though is that Kone had to leave the pitch shortly after coming on as a sub. He suffered a leg injury after recovering awkwardly from a challenge though its still not known the extent of the injury. Hopefully it won’t keep him out too long, as we’re already stretched thin as far as injuries are concerned.

Some positives from the match for me include:

  • Hult, our new singing from PAO, had a pretty solid start at left back today. The Swede, who was with PAO for two years and was arguably one of their better players recently, looked good overall defensively but was also able to contribute going forward on a few occasions. What I liked about his presence in the starting 11 today was that it allowed Bakakis to cover right back which gave Galo the opportunity to play as a right midfielder, a position that suited him as hes always been an offensively minded player.
  • Today’s match was our 22nd match undefeated in all competitions which I believe is a new record for the team. For more info on this run, check out this AgonaSport article here

As of now, this is how the top 5 of the standings looks:

standings

Still far too close for comfort, and I expect PAOK to get the win tomorrow. But hey, at least its exciting for once!

It Just Doesn’t End! (AEK 2-1 Olympiakos)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby with tags , , , , on February 7, 2018 by alexaek

For the 3rd time this season, Olympiakos have been outclassed in every way by an AEK team that seems to thrive when playing against our rivals. Today’s match, which sealed our place in the Cup Semi-Finals, was the 4th time we’ve played Olympiakos this season and ensured we remain unbeaten against them after winning 3 and drawing 1 (our previous Cup game against them which ended 0-0 in Karaiskaki).

Both our goals were pure class and will be remembered for ages. Not to take away from Lazaros’ goal which opened the scoring but Araujo’s goal to make it 2-0 was extra special. As others pointed out on-line, it was the kind of goal we would have seen from Demis back in the day and it further cemented Araujo’s role in our team and in the history books.

Thankfully we managed to avoid any crowd troubles, since we all know they would have been looking for any reason to call off the game as they had a few years ago. The game itself was one in which AEK took its time to find some rhythm. Once we did though, it became clear who was going to be the more likely winner. This seems to be the way we have approached many of our games with Olympiakos recently and it seems to have payed off well. Start slow, let them build a false sense of confidence, and then get into the game when they’ve relaxed and opened up.

Our first goal came courtesy of Lazaros who calmly headed in a perfectly placed cross from Bakakis. The goal, which came in 56th minute, was what we were all hoping for but it was the incredible goal by Araujo which sealed the deal less than 20 minutes later. In the 72nd minute Araujo was able to latch onto a ball thrown deep into Olympiakos territory and with one perfect touch from his chest set himself up for a beautifully taken volley. I would assume that when this season is done, that will be one of those goals we remember most, much like Cesar’s free kick against Milan and that long range shot from Liberopoulos when we beat Olympiakos 4-0 back in the 06-07 season.

Olympiakos did provide me with a bit of a scare when former AEK player Tachtsidis managed to pull one back. The former AEK midfielder had no problem celebrating a goal against his former club but it was AEK who had the last laugh after they managed to weather the storm of countless Olympiakos corners towards the end of the match.

 

I love when we beat Olympiakos but this is almost becoming too easy. I can’t remember the last team we dominated them this much. It goes further back than this season too: in the last 10 games against them, we’ve won 7 games and have lost only 2. But hey, I’m okay with this!

AEKARA!! (Olympiakos 1-2 AEK)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2018 by alexaek

Greek derbies… you gotta love them! You never know what can happen and with the way AEK has played this season, expecting anything but the unexpected is just foolish.

So when AEK were down 1-0 in Karaiskaki, with under ten minutes to go, all one had to do was remember our 3-2 come from behind win earlier this season to get some hope that the same thing could happen again. Sure enough, as we had already seen from our previous league encounter with Olympiakos, this AEK team won’t give up when it matters most. With league standings on the line and a huge psychological advantage over our Cup opponents up for grabs, AEK had everything to play for and they did just that.

Jimenez’s timing with his substitution of Giakoumakis for Bakasetas proved to be a stroke of genius as the Cretan played a role in our first goal (which was ultimately scored by Chygrinskiy) and scored the game winner with his first Superleague goal for AEK. If he was looking for his chance to make an impression, he certainly took advantage of it today.

The team in general handled the game pretty well. Tsintotas was brilliant overall in nets, making some big saves to keep us in the game. To be fair to him there was nothing he could do on the goal we conceded.

Our defense was decent overall, but their sloppiness at times almost cost us. Overall though they did what they had to and for the most part limited Olympiakos’ chances of scoring. In fact prior to their goal, they hadn’t even had a genuine chance at scoring for the first 30 minutes of the 2nd half.

Our midfield was pretty good overall too. It took a little while but once the game settled in, they were able to take control for much of the game. One thing I would have liked to have seen more was moving the ball forward. We tended to hold on to it without actively looking for space up ahead, but in an away derby against Olympiakos, it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to risk too much. It was a physical game with over 50 fouls committed by the two sides so our midfielders had to grind out much of the game. It didn’t help that the ref was letting so much slide resulting in a constant barrage of dangerous tackles.

Offensively we were pretty effective. We might not have created many chances for ourselves, but the ones we did create often resulted in great chances. One such chance came from a Masoud header that was just cleared off the line by Olympiakos defender Cisse.

Its hard to describe just how good a result like this feels. Derby wins are always so special on a number of different levels, but this one might just be one of the best ones recently. Not only did we beat them in their own home, with a last minute game winner, but we now leap frog them into 2nd place. The top 3 in the league is now PAOK with 46 points, AEK with 44, and Olympiakos with 42. A loss, or even a draw, would have almost put 1st place out of reach but now we’re one win away from being top again. We should also keep in mind that we only have two derbies left while PAOK still have three, including a game against us which we could easily win.

One of my favourite parts about winning a derby is that its not just the win itself, but what comes after it for us supporters. Needless to say, the celebrations in Athens were pretty crazy. The reception the team got at their hotel was pretty crazy, and its making me wonder what the scenes will be like if we manage to win the league this year.

The scenes inside Karaiskaki meanwhile were far less celebratory. Rioting quickly ensued after the game and from what I’ve heard it wasn’t pretty. Begs the question, will Olympiakos be punished? A game or two without fans is the least they should face, with a point deduction being totally possible here as well. Will it happen? I won’t hold my breath.

Oh I forgot to mention that on its approach to the stadium, AEK’s bus had a window smashed with a rock. Classic Greek scenes… oh well, I’m sure the Olympiakos fan who threw the rock feels great about his team now. Meanwhile a broken bus window is the last thing on our minds right now 🙂

AEK 2-0 Lamia

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2018 by alexaek

And just like that, were back in the race. Thanks to our 2-0 win against Lamia and Olympiakos’ 1-1 draw in Tripolis, only two points separate 1st and 3rd. As it stands, we currently sit 3rd with 41 points, behind Olympiakos on 42 and PAOK on 43. Its safe to say we haven’t seen a top 3 that was this close in as long as I can remember and it certainly sets up a high stakes encounter when we face Olympiakos in Karaiskaki this coming weekend.

Wasn’t able to catch the game myself as I was away for the weekend, but our goals came courtesy of Lazaros and, unsurprisingly, Livaja. Livaja now sits on 7 goals this season, even with Araujo. Lazaros meanwhile isn’t too far behind either with 5 goals thus far. His goal particularly was a pretty one, not so much for the finish but for the play that lead to it.

The result over the weekend wasn’t anything noteworthy on its own, but it is worth noting that prior to Saturday’s win, we hadn’t scored a goal in two games. Thankfully we managed to get the job done seeing as a loss would have seen us sit 5 points out of 2nd place. As things currently stand, we could very well see ourselves leapfrog Olympiakos into 2nd place, something which I genuinely think we have a chance at doing. Is it likely? No, it never is when you face them in their own stadium, but at the moment I’d say we’re pretty even with them and if the Cup game was anything to go by, we definitely have what it takes to grind out a result. If anything, I would argue that we are even more prepared having just faced them in their own grounds less than a week ago.

 

 

 

Olympiakos 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby with tags , , , on January 26, 2018 by alexaek

So we played the first quarter final game two days ago, our first of three games against Olympiakos within two weeks. A win would have been nicer for sure but overall I guess a draw isn’t a terrible result. Like Jimenez said, a 1-1 draw would have been ideal, but I guess we’ll still be able to go into the game next match with a decent chance of going through.

While we did eventually manage to claw our way into the game, it wasn’t a pretty start. In fact we were lucky not to concede early on after Barkas made some huge saves to keep us in the game. After weathering the storm early on, it eventually became a matter of grinding Olympiakos down and taking whichever chances happened to come our way.

Of course, with this being a derby against Olympiakos, the match was not without controversy. We know Olympiakos fans would dispute it all, but they very well could have been given a red card and we had strong justification for a penalty which wasn’t awarded. Having said that, the chances of either of those being given by the ref in Karaiskaki were unfortunately always going to be slim.

Overall its a result I can live with, but we’ll have to better for the next game. It might have been a draw, but Olympiakos had the upper hand when it came to creating chances and it came down to some good saves by Barkas and some poor finishing. With a little more luck on Olympiakos’ side, its very likely they could have scored a goal or two. With the next Cup game being in OAKA though, I’d say we have a pretty good chance of advancing to the next round. Considering how Cup games have been between AEK and Olympiakos lately, we’re likely to be in for a tight one but the key will obviously be to prevent Olympiakos from scoring. If we can get off to a good start in the next game, I’d feel very good about our likelyhood of going through.