AEK 0-0 Iraklis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2016 by alexaek

A massive opportunity for AEK to make a statement was wasted earlier today when we failed to even sneak a win past Iraklis. Why was one game such an opportunity? Well if you haven’t seen the other results from the league yet, something pretty spectacular happened this weekend. It started when PAOK’s home game with Xanthi ending in a 0-0 draw before PAO saw a similar fate after their game against Panaitolikos also ended 0-0. Then, even more surprising than both those results, Olympiakos lost 1-0 in Larissa. Could the situation have become any better for us? We had the perfect chance to go alone in first place, all we had to do was beat Iraklis at home.

Ah but this is AEK we’re talking about, the team that has made a habit of making the easy tasks difficult. To be fair the absence of Mantalos and Almeida really hurt us, but to not even manage a goal when we needed one so badly really doesn’t sit well with me. Its still very early in the season and we’re still ahead of both PAOK and Olympiakos, but I really felt going into this season that we had a team that wouldn’t drop points in games like these. Don’t get me wrong, Iraklis is never a team that can be taken lightly, but we should be winning these games, especially when they matter so much. With the derby in Karaiskaki coming up this weekend, the three points from today would have helped us immensely. I know its asking a lot, but can you imagine if we won today and managed to sneak a win in Karaiskaki also, causing the reds to drop six points in two games? That would have felt pretty good if you ask me.

As for today’s game, I didn’t get to watch it since I was at work. It seemed to have followed a similar pattern to what I expected though: AEK controlling most of the game, creating some decent chances but not being able to put anything in the back of the net, with an Iraklis who was happy to sit back and take the occasional counter attack. It was an unfortunate result, but it gives Ketsbaia some food for thought. First of all, it sounds like Pekhart showed exactly why he isn’t considered a starter on the team. It also shows that somethings needs to be re-worked if we are to be more effective in front of goal. I know we really missed Mantalos and Almeida, but we should have some composure and creativity in and around the 18 yard box than we seemed to have today. The way Vargas and Bakasetas were linking up today at the front of our midfield just wasn’t working and its definitely a part of the pitch Ketsbaia will have to work out if Mantalos isn’t back in time for the derby this weekend.

An unfortunate result and a disappointing performance, but its still early. If anything this weekend showed that this seasons might at least be a little less predictable than usual. Olympiakos are clearly beatable with the right game plan (promising for us this weekend) and the other two still aren’t at their best yet either. Could it be close all the way to the end of the league? I certainly wouldn’t mind that for a change.

Highlights can be seen at Novasport’s site.

AEK News (September 22nd)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Basketball with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2016 by alexaek

I thought I’d post a few updates on the team since though its been a relatively calm week for us (and I can’t complain about that), there have been a few noteworthy events going on with the team.

The first topic I’d like to quickly brush on is what happened with Aravidis earlier in the week. Apparently at some point on Sunday Aravidis posted something on his facebook page along the lines of not appreciating the games being played behind his back (or something like that). To be honest, I’m not sure anyone knows what he was talking about. Maybe it was frustration due to the lack of playing time, or maybe something really was going on? Either way, he came out and issued an apology fairly quickly which seemed to calm the situation. Thankful that it didn’t lead to more, but I’m just hoping this doesn’t lead to other issues. While the league is as much of a mess as ever, the team is relatively stable and the last thing we’d need is for issues like this to shake up the balance we seem to have.

Other news regarding the football squad is the injury Mantalos suffered to his nose. From what I read, it seems as though he broke it after a collision with Galo during training. Its a tough blow for us to take since he has been playing quite well lately and with the Olympiakos match coming up in a little over a week, this could potentially be a pretty devastating injury. Having said that, we have decent depth and somewhat versatile players. As long as Ketsbaia can figure out how to fill in the gaps, I’m sure we’ll manage. Still not sure whether Almeida will be playing against Olympiakos. I believe he’ll be sitting out the Iraklis game coming up so that he can recover fully for the derby, which seems like the right call to me.

Now for some basketball news. The team is currently in Turkey for a friendly tournament featuring which started yesterday with a narrow 81-80 loss to Tofas. For those who are interested in watching the match, it can be watched in its entirety here. I haven’t seen it yet but it sounds like one of our recent signings, Michael Dixon, had quite the game. Hes definitely a promising prospect for this season… will we hold on to him though? If our recent record of letting go of some of our best players is anything to go by, I’m not entirely sure.

 

Veria 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Temuri Ketsbaia with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2016 by alexaek

We got our second win today in Northern Greece as our good start to the season continued thanks to goals from Bakasetas and Vargas. To be honest the scoreline wasn’t as convincing as I was expecting it to be but at the end of the day the team were able to do what was needed to get the win.

My streams today were iffy at best, but I was able to get an idea of how we were playing for the most part and while there were some positives to take away from the match, I was still a bit worried at times with what I was seeing. We did well for long stretches of time to move the ball around and create very convincing opportunities but then we would sit back at other times and make no effort to take control of the match. From what I remember we did this especially after scoring our first goal and at the start of the second half, possibly the worst moments of the match to do so (especially if we were to do so against a stronger team). I’m not sure what it is that makes the team do that but I noticed something similar against Xanthi once we had a decent lead built up, as if the whole team collectively decides to relax a little too much.

Thankfully we were able to pick things up eventually and start creating some chances again though I was worried for a while that we weren’t going to score a second goal. Its not that we weren’t creating chances, because we were, but we struggled to get things to click right in front of the net. So many great opportunities were stopped by either the keeper or the post, but many others were let down by poor finishing (noteably some of the opportunities involving Bakasetas and Platellas). I’m really happy to see us creating these chances but if we struggle to put these many away, we’ll really be made to pay for that when the derbies come around.

Enough about the negatives though, lets talk about what worked well for us. Two players stood out for me: Patito and Bakasetas. Patito was a constant threat on the right side of the pitch, constantly working the ball further towards goal and sending in perfectly placed passes. Normally when I see a player with the ball near the box I’d rather they just got it in with a pass rather than try to dribble past some defenders but Patito doesn’t cause those same kind of worries with me. He, much like Scocco, has that tight ball control that enables him to seemingly effortlessly make his past one, two, or more defenders. Its beautiful and exciting stuff to watch and its only a matter of time until he scores a phenomenal goal himself (I’m thinking something along the lines of Scocco’s goal against Olympiakos back in that 4-4 cup final).

Bakasetas also had a great game which I was very happy to see. While the singings of Almeida, Lescott, and Patito were all great moves during the summer, it was Bakasetas’ singing that I was most excited about. Today proved why he was such a great catch by us and I can only hope that we’ll see more of him in games to come. He was a constant threat upfront, provided the assist for the second goal, and showed great awareness of what was going on around him on a few occasions. All too often a young Greek talent comes to one of the big teams and ultimately fails to make any significant impact but I genuinely feel that Bakasetas could be the exception to that.

Aside from those two players, the rest of the team did well too. Mantalos was dangerous, Almeida had some great chances before he had to be subbed off (hopefully his injury isn’t much worse this time around). We were sound defensively and while I feel Lescott still needs another game or two to really settle in, I feel like hes starting to get comfortable with what he has to do.

Ketsbaia did alright today, everyone seemed to know their roles well and though the starting lineup was predictable, it was the one that made the most sense to go with. One thing he did though which really confused me was taking off Patito and subbing on Platellas. Platellas ultimately did alright, but I really didn’t understand the logic behind the move. We were still looking for a goal, Patito didn’t show any sign of injury and was still contributing to the match. Why Ketsbaia decided to take him off for a player who plays a similar role I can’t quite figure out. But hey, we got the result in the end so I won’t question it too much yet. Whether his decisions will cost us in the derbies we’ll have to see.

As usual a round of applause is due for our supporters in Veria today. Though I was only able to watch from my computer a few thousand kilometres away from the stadium, it never once seemed like an away game. AEK supporters filled a curve at the end as well one of the main stands along the side of the pitch and if the reactions from some of the players and Ketsbaia is anything to go by, their support really made a difference throughout the match.

Highlights, though not in great quality, can be seen here:

And, if you have some extra time you can watch the whole match here:

 

AEK 4-1 Xanthi

Posted in Greek Super League, AEK Players, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, AEK, AEK Athens FC, Keepers, Jerseys with tags , , , , on September 11, 2016 by alexaek

Our Superleague campaign got off to the best possible start today with a convincing 4-1 win over Xanthi. While there may have been a few scares provided by Xanthi and their determined offense, we also saw glimpses of what could be one of the best AEK teams of the past five to ten years.

The MVP of the match award deservedly went to Almeida after he scored two goals, one of which will without a doubt be the goal of the week. It was the perfect start to the season that Almeida would have been hoping for, helping to quiet all those within the press (not to mention the supporters of some of our rivals) who said he was unfit, old, and past his prime. He may not be the youngest striker out there but he showed today exactly why we signed him: a physical presence that allows him to be a threat in the box and to hold the ball up well, as well as being someone who possesses the technique to pull off some amazing goals when the moment presents itself.

While Almeida certainly deserves the credit for today’s performance, it has to be mentioned that we had some other players who also put in some fantastic performances. Patito was a noticeable one, providing excellent speed through the middle and down the flanks. He also played a crucial role in our first two goals, setting up both of them with perfect balls in that placed the goals on a platter for the two scorers (Almeida and Mantalos).

Chygrynskiy also did well, keeping up the good form he had during the pre-season. He was solid at the back but also did very well to carry the ball up the pitch on a couple occasions. He did so well going forward that he could have had a goal himself had his shot not been narrowly saved by Xanthi’s keeper Zivkovic. We were also lucky to have the fantastic keeping of Anestis who, despite once letting a ball slip underneath him, pulled off some fantastic saves to keep AEK in the game.

It has to be said that the rest of the team did well too. There were a couple weaknesses, such as with Lambropoulos covering in central midfield to cover for Simoes (who started on the bench so as not to aggravate a minor injury picked up in training). To be fair to Lambropoulos, its a position he is not too familiar with and he had a fair bit of pressure. All things considered, he didn’t do all too badly.

As fantastic as the performance was today, I can only imagine how much better the team will be once they’ve had a couple more games to gel together. We also have to keep in mind that both Lazaros was out due to injury and Simoes didn’t start the match. With both those players fit and in the starting XI, we’ll have the most well rounded team that we’ve had in as long as I can remember.

Overall its looking like we might be in for the best Superleague season of recent memory. Its still early but AEK, Panathinaikos, and PAOK are all looking strong and I think its safe to see that any of us can challenge Olympiakos for the title. If this keeps up, this championship could go down to the last couple of weeks. How great would it be if all four teams were still in it with a week to go in the championship? I can’t remember that happening for as long as I’ve been following the league.

Highlights, as usual, can be watched at NovaSports site.

I must say that the kits looked great during the match today:

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Our supporters were fantastic as usual:

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New Kits Unveiled

Posted in AEK, Jerseys with tags , , , on September 7, 2016 by alexaek

So, before I get to much talking myself, I’ll give you all a chance to make what you will of them:

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So, what do you think? If you ask me, I’d have to say I’m quite happy with what I’ve seen today and to be honest, I’m even more excited to see them in person.

Its all kind of overbearing. I mean, where do I start? I guess I’ll start with the black one since that will apparently be our main kit for this season. Its also the one that has received the most attention so far, and in a good way. People seem to love the jersey for the most part and I really can’t blame them. Its a simple yet very effective design, and the gold with the black looks very sharp. Its classy yet at the same time also serious, what so many of our jerseys from our recent past (especially the Puma ones) were not.

There are two noteworthy features to point out about the new kits, especially on the black one. The first is the numbering on the back: If you look at it, you’ll notice the numbers depict one of the pictures that captured the grim scenes following the Asia Minor catastrophe. Its one of the many pictures that any Asia Minor refugee descendant would likely be familiar with, a picture of streams of refugees leaving their homelands with nothing but what they could carry on their backs:

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Its not an uplifting image, but its a reminder of where AEK came from and what AEK represents. Its an important reminder too as it seems as every day goes by, more and more Greeks forget what so many people went through less than a century ago. They lost their homes and traditions and whole villages were wiped from the history books. They were humiliated when they arrived in Greece, simply looking for some food and shelter while trying to come to terms with all they had been through. Despite all this, they still managed to create a team that has played its part in ensuring that people like me never forget our history and roots and its great to see the team incorporate our history this way.

Aside from the numbers, another noticeable change is the fact that our emblem has changed slightly. Its still the same design, but all three kits now feature our emblem simply in black and gold. The end result is stunning if I may so myself. I am a bit worried that it doesn’t quite stand out so much on the black kits but I don’t mind because I think it looks so good anyways. I’m not quite sure I’d want to see the black and gold emblem replace our traditional emblem for good since I feel like we already had one of the best emblems out there, but I’m more than happy to see it on our kits for a year or two.

Enough about the black kits, what about the other two? Well it seems like our secondary kit will be the striped one that we had last season, except with the new emblem. I can’t complain about that since I loved that kit. Its a nice change with the new emblem while still keeping the already great jersey as is.

And the third kit? Its a bright pink kit which is certainly a bit different but I don’t mind it at all. Its something different, a change from the less exciting third kits we’ve seen in the past. Plus its also considerably cheaper to purchase than the other two which should give more people the chance to buy one right away.

So, what do you think? If you like what you see as much as I do, you can order a kit online from AEK’s e-shop . I’m not sure what their policy is on shipping abroad but hopefully they’re able to. I read that the site actually had trouble keeping up because the demand was so high, so if you have issues that could be why.

Anorthosis 1-3 AEK

Posted in AEK Players, AEK, AEK Athens FC, Friendlies with tags , , , , , on September 3, 2016 by alexaek

Seeing as the season has yet to start (who knows, maybe next weekend it will finally kick off?), AEK managed to schedule another friendly against a team Ketsbaia is all too familiar with. Anorthosis, the team Ketsbaia coached for almost five seasons, were our hosts today in Larnaca.

The game got off to a quick start with AEK scoring 2 minutes in thanks to an own goal from a defensive error. From then on we managed to control much of the game for a decent amount of time until Anorthosis managed to assert some control of their own, with a penalty being the reward for their efforts. Gonsalves managed to convert the penalty and in doing so evened the game up at 1-1.

We managed to get ourselves ahead once again in the 49th minute after a great run by Christodoulopoulos resulted in a pass to Aravidis who was waiting in the box, though it was Almeida who ultimately finished the play. The finish might not have been anything spectacular but it shows why we went for a player like Almeida. He knows how to position himself, and knows what to do to get the ball in the back of the net.

The game was put to rest in the 73rd minute when Christodoulopoulos did well to finish off on a great pass from Almeida. It was a beautiful finish that nicely capped an impressive AEK debut for our latest signing, a performance that will put him in contention for a place in the starting XI.

Overall it was a great game for AEK. A good performance, a great display from our supporters, and some promising signs for the season to come. Lescott even managed to get some playing time and though its clear he still needs time, the fact that he was considered for the game alone shows that he is coming along nicely. All things at the moment are pointing towards this being one of our best seasons in years: we have a solid defense, some great players in attack, stability on and off the pitch, and a team that looks like it will be able to compete with any other team in the league. Now, if only the league will actually start…

End of August Signings and Friendlies

Posted in AEK Players, football, AEK, AEK Athens FC, Atromitos, Singings, Friendlies with tags , , , , , on August 28, 2016 by alexaek

Its been a few weeks since my last post and while the league has yet to start (who knows when it will), there has still been plenty going on with the team. I’ll start off with three friendlies we had not too long ago: 0-0 with Atromitos, 1-2 away win against Aris, and a surprised 1-3 home loss to Apollon.

Mantalos had a fantastic game against Aris, scoring both goals including a fantastic overhead shot:

 

Our 1-3 loss to Apollon came as quite a shock but I’d rather we have this kind of shock from a friendly rather during the league. I didn’t get to watch the game but it sounds like it was evident that we still have some big gaps, at least as far as second string players are concerned. Ketsbaia seemed to use this match to give some of the bench players a go and some of them didn’t quite in the performance we would have hoped for. If theres one good thing to take from the match though, its the fact that Patito has quite the shot (see one minute in for his beautiful goal):

We’ve also been busy off the pitch these past few days with some signings. The first was the signing of Greek national team midfielder Lazaros Christodoulopoulos. Not a big name signing by any means, but its a good move from the team as far as I’m concerned. He still has a few good years ahead of him, he’s shown himself to be a reliable and consistent player, and hes Greek. A very solid move to help boost our midfield and provide us with more options.

At the same time as our signing of Christodoulopoulos, we began to show interest in English centre back Joleon Lescott. He might be getting a bit old at 34 years, and he hasn’t had the best seasons of his career lately, but hes an experienced player and a left footed centre back, the type of player Ketsbaia has been wanting for a while now. Whether hes been in good form or not, a centre back with the EPL experience that Lescott has should have no problem handling most players in the Superleague and while I was hoping for someone a bit younger, I think he’ll definitely be a good option for us. We already have a fairly strong defense so far and with Lescott it can only get stronger.

He hasn’t officially signed yet, but as I’m writing this he should be in a plane on his way to Athens. He’ll still have to go through a medical exam but but it seems like things are very close to being finalised. Its worth noting that Italian side Pescara were also keen on signing Lescott, but AEK managed to boost their offer even further to persuade Lescott to chose us over newly promoted Pescara. Hopefully he becomes a signing we can look back on with satisfaction rather than becoming another one of the many “bams” we sign who ultimately do very little to help the team.