AEK Through to Cup Semi-Finals

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Draw, Greek Cup, Greek Football, PAOK with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2016 by alexaek

It wasn’t the easiest of wins for us today as Iraklis proved to be quite determined for a goal, but we managed to do enough for a 0-1 win. Of course, this now puts us at 9 wins out of 9 games so far in 2016, a stat which I find reassuring going into four very difficult league games.

Today’s win was very much a formality as we almost all but guaranteed our progress to the next round, but I was glad Poyet took the time to give our new signings some playing time. Zuculini started the match and from what I read did a pretty decent job for his first appearance of the season. Generally, we were holding back quite a bit in the first half so there were only so many opportunities for him to get involved but judging from the commentary I was following, he looked promising every time he was involved with a play.

Pekhart also got some time on the pitch, though he came on as a sub for Buonanotte later in the match. Hard to say how he looked since he came on so late, but hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him this weekend.

Our only goal was scored by Mantalos, the second goal in a row for him now. The finish was well taken but what really made the goal one worth watching is the passing that led up to it. Its the kind of passing that I feel really highlights why we’ve been doing so well under Poyet. Both Buonanotte and Djebour, the two involved with setting up the goal, took the extra second to seek out the better pass rather than simply passing the ball forward and hoping it leads to a chance. If we can play like this against Olympiakos and PAO, we can definitely do some damage.

Unfortunately, we did not really manage to make our mark on the game despite creating some chances, though its understandable. We had the game wrapped up before it started and we have some big games coming up so I understand if Poyet wanted the team to take it easy and not go all out if they didn’t have to. It was too bad to see Soiledis be subbed off so early though with what seems to be a pulled muscle.

We finally got to see Baroja return to action as Poyet decided to give Anestis a well earned break, and I found this promising to see. It gives me the impression that Poyet really does take Anestis seriously and considers him an option for starting keeper, something I was worried wouldn’t happen.

All in all we got the result we needed and we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals of the cup. Still to early to tell who we’ll be facing in the next round as the draw isn’t until next week, but there’s definitely the possibility we could be facing either PAOK, PAO, or Olympiakos. At this point I can’t see Olympiakos not making it to the final and even though I don’t want to get ahead of myself, there’s nothing I would love to see more than us get our revenge against them in the final. We’ll find out for sure either way at the draw next week.

Highlights for the game can be watched below:

AEK Announce Singings of Zuculini and Pekhart

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Transfers with tags , , on February 1, 2016 by alexaek

Two singings were announced by AEK today on the final day of the transfer period, midfielder Bruno Zuculini and forward Tomas Pekhart.

I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t end up going for a centre back, but both Zuculini and Pekhart seem like two promising players who can certainly help us. Zuculini, a 22 year old Argentinian who we got on loan from Manchester City, will help boost our already strong midfield (especially with the news we got today regarding Barbosa being out for a month due to injury). He’s a young player with some good experience already under his belt from his time in Spain so hopefully the option will be there if we want to extend his stay here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruno_Zuculini

Pekhart, 26 years old and from the Czech Republic (though he was born in Czechoslovakia) will surely help us up front with Aravidis and Djebbour both having a hard time finding the net this season. He’s tall (1.94 meters) and also brings with him a lot of experience having played in Germany, England, and the Czech Republic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tomáš_Pekhart

Not sure when either player will be ready, but I’m hoping they’re already in good shape so that they could be considered for the game against Olympiakos.

AEK 3-0 Veria

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Dellas, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on January 31, 2016 by alexaek

Another match and yet another win, bringing our total so far in 2016 to eight wins in a row. I really could not ask for better momentum going into the games against Atromitos and Olympiakos.

For the third league game in a row it was Vargas who opened the score for us after tapping in a beautiful pass from Didac. The scoring thankfully did not end there though as Aravidis added a second early in the second half before Mantalos scored off the rebound of Buonanotte’s penalty towards the end of the match. It wasn’t the easiest match for us as Veria were pretty stubborn up front, sending in a few shots that looked dangerous but ultimately went wide more often than not. Yet again though, the team showed they now have what it takes to get the win one way or another, even if we don’t always score the prettiest goals.

The way we’ve been managing to get these crucial wins is something that I think Poyet really deserves credit for. He seems to have found a way to get the team to take control of games, get the ball forward, and put the pressure on until something goes in, a formula that certainly seems to be working so far. A lot of it really comes down to the way the team has learned to control the game, settle down when they need to, and play effective and direct passes in order to get the ball up. I feel that this all comes down to Simoes and Johansson, two players who are physical but calm, players who are not afraid to hold on to the ball one extra second and look for the right option. To be able to control so much possesion in the centre of the pitch and start our attacks there rather than always going back is what really makes our play standout to me compared to what we were seeing under Dellas.

I really don’t have too many complaints about the team’s overall performance today, though a lot of that could simply come down to the fact that we were facing fairly weak opposition today. Having said that, I feel Didac deserves a fair bit of credit. The energy he provides down the left wing, both offensively and defensively, provide a huge boost to the team. On top of that, some of his passes such as the one that set up the goal were beautifully placed and timed and with bit of luck he could have ended up with another assist.

All in all, things are looking good for us. I would normally be a bit more worried about next week’s game against Atromitos since they’re never an easy team to play away, but their form lately has been quite poor and with us having such great momentum, I really think we have a good chance of getting the win. With PAO still only four points behind us, we need all the points we can get.

Highlights as usual found here: http://gazzetta.novasports.gr/VideoId/30684/

I’ll also be checking to see if a full broadcast of the game is put online later on as well for those who didn’t get the chance to watch it earlier.

 

AEK 4-1 Iraklis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , on January 28, 2016 by alexaek

Our second important win against a team from Thessaloniki in less than a week, a win which pretty much ensures we make it to the semifinal of the Cup. It was a game that had its fair share of excitement with an own goal being scored, Bakakis getting a red card early on, and the game being called off for a few minutes while the ref waited for the supporters to calm down. Despite all the commotion and going a man down from so early on though, we showed great character too not only hold on for the win, but to score three more goals.

While the refereeing left much to be desired today, our performance was very encouraging and I cant help but credit Poyet for setting the team up so well and reacting well to Bakakis’ red. I was a bit disappointed to see him take of Buonanotte so early on, but the decision to take him off and put Galo at right back was one that had to be made. We were only 1-0 up at that point and conceding then would have really altered the game. Iraklis also switched to a formation with two designated forwards as the game progressed proving Poyet’s substitution to be even more crucial.

It was great to see the team play seemingly unaffected by the red card and react in such a positive way. I was following the game on live commentary and I was so worried that we would hold back onto the 1-0 lead as we did against PAOK over the weekend but there was no sign of that today.

With every game I like Poyet more and more (though as our performances continue to improve, I get more and more worried that he’ll get picked up by another team this summer). I was worried when we first signed him that he would favour our foreign players over the Greeks in the squad but hes constantly shown that its not the case at all. Today’s starting XI for example contained seven Greeks and the fact that hes playing so many Greeks at this stage of the Cup really reassures me that he has faith in our Greek players. All I can for now is that games like today give him the confidence to start players like Kolovetsios and Lambropoulos in the league more often. I’ll be very interested to see who Poyet goes with for centre back this weekend against Veria. With Atromitos and Olympiakos coming up, this weekend is essentially Poyet’s only chance to experiment a bit more with centre back options before it really matters.

The match today really made it clear yet again that we desperately need to sign another attacker. Sure we scored four goals and showed great movement going forward, but one of those goals was an own goal, one was scored by a centre back, one was a deflection of a shot by a midfielder, and one was a penalty. For yet another game, not one of our goals has come from one of our strikers. In fact, looking back on recent games, the last time one of our forwards scored a goal was five games ago when Aravidis scored against Xanthi. We’ve done great to score and win these past seven games in a row, but we really need forwards who are able to get in the right positions and finish well. I can only hope that we sign someone who can do this job for us soon because we have some tough games coming up, especially if we make to the next round of the Cup.

Highlights can be seen here:

As well, MONOAEK24’s channel on youtube has also uploaded the whole game again for those who missed it. I’ve just watched the first half and will be watching the second half later tonight. I really hope they keep this up, its great being able to watch the game afterwards on days when I’m at work.

AEK – PAOK Full Game

Posted in Greek Soccer, AEK, AEK Athens FC, Derby, PAOK with tags , , , on January 27, 2016 by alexaek

For those who missed it, the entire AEK-PAOK derby over the weekend is available on youtube. The channel also has some other full games from this season.

AEK 1-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Players, Dellas, Derby, football, Greek Football, Keepers, PAOK, Superleague with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2016 by alexaek

After three attempts this season we’ve finally managed to win a derby, and an important one too. It was a scrappy game, one where we certainly could have done a lot of things better, but the three points against PAOK could not have come at a better time.

The win puts us at 39 points, 4 points ahead of PAO and 6 ahead of PAOK. Considering both those teams have been shaky at best lately and we seem to have found some good form since the start of the year, we have now put ourselves in a great position to make sure we get the best start we can to the playoffs… assuming we can continue to get the results like we have been lately.

The game was our sixth win in a row for 2016 (including cup games) and while it has given us a lot to celebrate, including yet another game without conceeding and the first time this season that we managed to get a win against a team in the top five, it also showed we still have a lot to worry about. Normally I have a hard time narrowing down where exactly I should start when bringing up the negatives, but for yesterday’s game, the biggest concern was clear: Arzo.

I remember I wasn’t the only one who wondered why Dellas never really gave him much of a chance, but people were always suggesting that Dellas of all people would know whether a center back was good enough to play or not. While I admit Dellas may have not been perfect, it seems he was certainly right about Arzo: I wanted him to be given a chance, but yesterday’s game proved he just isn’t good enough. One website even sarcastically, though fairly accurately, said that he was PAOK’s best player. It seems as though he just can’t think fast enough when the pressure is on him, leading him to either take too long to make a decision or, when he does decide to act quick enough, leading to sloppy plays which more often than not result in lose balls which PAOK attackers were able to latch onto all too quickly. With some teams, his poor decision making is less apparent as the players are simply not good enough to latch onto the errors he makes. Against PAOK however, that simply wasn’t the case. Rodriguez, easily PAOK’s most dangerous player offensively, was quick and aggressive in attack and was able to pressure Arzo throughout the game forcing mistakes or sloppy clearances. Bottom line is as a center back, someone playing in a role where you need to be solid and sure of what you’re doing as the last line of defense, he simply was not anywhere near good enough yesterday. It does not help that all other center back options we have are relatively young and unexperienced.

We were also pretty sloppy in attack unfortunately, and it made for a rather dull game with few solid chances. Sure we managed to move the ball forward often enough, and we certainly showed enough attacking intent, but in the final third we couldn’t get anything to work. Chance after chance near or in the box was ruined due to a poor pass or a poor finish, something which I can’t help but feel must be related to a psychological issue that seems to be affecting the team as a whole. I’m hoping yesterday’s win will help with our derby performances in the upcoming games, but it still seems as though whenever we have a big game, our concentration and nerve take a big hit.

Simoes got the man of the match award, and he certainly deserved it. Time after time he came back and provided the much needed cover for our defenders, making some critical tackles and constantly covering our half of the pitch. Without him, I’m not convinced we would have come out of the game without conceding from PAOK’s attacking surge towards the last twenty minutes of the game. Anestis was also phenomenal and has proven yet again to Poyet and the fans that he deserves to be considered for the starting lineup, even when Baroja returns from injury. He was solid during one on one situations, handled the far shots well and, most importantly, was able to keep calm during corners and free kicks.

Overall not the best game but I’m certainly relieved we got the points. I’m really hoping this win will give us the confidence we need to face the next two derbies (Olympiakos three weeks from now and PAO at the end of February) since I genuinely see no reason we can’t win against PAO and at least get a draw against Olympiakos.

Highlights as usual for our league games can be found on the Novasports page for AEK.

 

PAS Giannina 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Dellas, Derby, Greek Football, Greek Super League, Keepers, PAOK, Superleague with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2016 by alexaek

Our fantastic start to 2016 got even better after we got an important three points away against in cold and wet Northern Greece. Conditions for the match were less than ideal as the rain that had fallen the previous couple of days meant the pitch was in terrible shape, but our players handled the situation very well. In fact, with how well they were moving the ball around at times I often forgot that there was even anything wrong with the pitch.

It was a good game from most of the team though there were certainly a few players who never really managed to get into the game. From what I could see, Djebbour especially stood out. From the moment he came on in the second half, I rarely saw him make any effort. I hardly even saw him run as he spent most of his time taking jogging slowly and idly around the pitch, almost as if he wasn’t even really aware of what was going on around him. He  can play, we all know it, but the effort he gives, especially beside someone who never stops like Aravidis, is disappointing. I know he’s always been like this, but it seems to be getting worse, to the point where its really not worth playing him. I’d much rather we call up someone from our academy or make a cheap singing of another striker from the Superleague rather than play Djebbour when he’s being a spectator the way he is.

Another player who disappointed me yet again was Vargas. Sure he scored the goal, but I hardly see him contribute aside from scoring. When he has players like Simoes and Johansson around him, players who are constantly getting involved, he really has to carry his weight some more. Otherwise, it just ends up holding Simoes and Johansson back and ends up giving them one less option, options we desperately need when we play against a team that defends like PAS.

Defensively I thought we were mediocre today, not terrible but we certainly still allowed PAS far too much time near our goal. PAS do have a good team for sure, but we need to be able to hold back teams a lot better than we do. We need to be able to apply more pressure but without leaving ourselves too vulnerable, something we can’t quite do yet with the centre backs we have. It too often seems to be one or the other; either we apply some pressure and end up leaving ourselves vulnerable and open at the back, or we hold back but then end up giving our opposition too much time on the ball and too much time to form an attack. Hopefully we sign a more experienced centre back soon to help us a bit, its been far too long since we had players like Dellas or Kyrgiakos back there.

Players who stood for me were Johansson (is anybody surprised?), Simoes, and Barbosa, all players who seem to have settled very well into the positions Poyet is playing them in. However, most of my credit and praise has to go to Anestis. For the second game in a row he saved a penalty, a penalty which could have tied the game for PAS. He also managed to keep a clean sheet again (in fact, in the five games we’ve played in 2016, hes only conceeded once) and just generally had a solid game. I saw one corner where he seemed a bit shaky but otherwise, he did everything he had to which is all we can ask of him at this point. Without a doubt his confidence is skyrocketting and I can only hope he continues to keep it up. Of course, his real test will be next weekend against PAOK, a game we absolutely must win.

All in all it was a good performance. By no means was it perfect, but we did what we had to, getting the three points away at a difficult team. The three points meant even more after PAO dropped points at home to Panionios, drawing 0-0. That draw now means we are four points ahead with 36 points while PAO have 32. PAOK also have 32 (though they’ve also played a game less), so a win for us in the derby next weekend will mean we keep our distance between us and PAOK as well.

Highlights, as usual, can be found on the NovaSports site here: http://aek365.novasports.gr

 

Unfortunately, our basketball team had a far more disappointing weekend. We played PAOK away, a game I was worried about. We’ve already beaten them this season, and I feel we have a slightly better team, but an away game against PAOK will never be easy.

The game started off well, almost too well. I woke up about a quarter of the way through the game to find that we were not only winning, but we were winning by 20 points. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I quickly got out of bed and set myself up with a stream in time to catch the third and fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it was then that things took a very quick turn for the worse. Just like that, PAOK had managed to close the gap. All of a sudden they were outplaying us, and we could hardly handle them. Too make things worse, our shooting (which was pretty good for the first two quarters) became terrible, with three pointer after three pointer missing the target. It was painful to watch, seeing us miss all these three pointers rather than just trying to go for the safer two pointers. I could quite tell if the team was told to go for three, or they just couldn’t break PAOK’s defense enough to be able to get close enough for any safe two pointers. Either way, it was not nice to watch. Sure enough, with just a couple minutes to go, PAOK managed to claw their way back into the lead for good, winning the game 79-75. We’re still in third place but with Aris’ loss and a win over PAOK, we would have been able to put some good distance between us fourth place. It was a terrible game to watch, but I’m hoping the team can learn something from it.

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