Playoff Schedule Announced

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Playoffs with tags , , , , on April 28, 2016 by alexaek

So the draw for the playoffs took place today and overall I can’t complain all that much. Take a look below to see who we’ll be playing and when. Its worth noting that our first game against PAOK in Toumba will be played without fans.

1st Matchday (May 11th): PAOK – AEK, Toumba, Thessaloniki

2nd Matchday (May 15th): Panionios – AEK, Nea Smyrni, Athens

3rd Matchday (May 18th): Panathinaikos – AEK, Leoforos, Athens

4th Matchday (May 22nd): AEK – Panathinaikos, OAKA, Athens

5th Matchday (May 25th): AEK – PAOK, OAKA, Athens

6th Matchday (May 29th): AEK – Panionios, OAKA, Athens

Its a bit strange that all of our first three games are away but the way I see it is, if we can come out strong and get some results in the first three matches, then we have a good chance of finishing the playoffs in a good way. We seemed to have some luck with derbies at home this season so theres no reason for us to not be able to get all nine points from the last three games at least.

 

Final-4 Bound!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , on April 27, 2016 by alexaek

Almost 24 hours after we qualified for the Football Cup final, our Basketball team did what we haven’t been able to do for eleven years: make it to the league semi-finals. It certainly won’t be easy from here on since we face Olympiakos in the next round (and then either Panathinaikos or Aris in the finals if we make it that far), but theres no reason we can’t make it to the finals. Sure, Olympiakos are undoubtedly favorites and have the stronger squad by far, but we held up fairly well when we played them in SEF and even came close to beating them at OAKA. If we play smart and focused offense and defense we stand a chance of keeping up to them, but thats a big if to say the least.

We have been anything but consistent this season and even during today’s game we saw just how inconsistent we can be. We would go a few minutes with some solid offense and then go a good five minutes struggling to get anything in. We have the players to score well, players like Mavrokefalidis and Carter when they’re having a good game but these players are capable of being so sloppy at times that it becomes frustrating to watch. Obviously its unfair to expect solid performances from everyone during every game. People have good days, and they have bad days and this is to be expected. But with this team, a team that is capable of so much when things are going well, it would really be a shame if we don’t at least put in a strong performance during the games against Olympiakos. I know our chances of going through are slim, but one win just to at least prove we can do it would be a great thing to see.

It was to see the reactions on the faces of some of the refugees who were invited to watch the game. I know life for them isn’t easy, certainly not in Greece or wherever else they may end up, but hopefully the couple of hours they spent in OAKA today provided at least some sort of distraction to what they have to experience everyday. From some of the pictures I’ve seen, it certainly seemed like some of them were having a good time.

Highlights from today’s game:

Cup Bound

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Basketball, Dellas, Derby, Greek Cup, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2016 by alexaek

Another game I wasn’t able to watch but from what I’ve read so far, it sounds like our playing left much to be desired. But, in the end we did enough to get through like I knew we would and now its all or nothing against Olympiakos in the final.

Speaking of finals, the game will be taking place next Saturday, the 7th of May (is it May already?). We were told by Kontonis that we would be getting a foreign ref for the game but as has consistently been the case with everything that the minister has said so far this season, that turned out to be yet another false promise. Surprised? I’m not.

As for today’s game, I get the impression that it was a similar performance to the last time we played Atromitos in Peristeri. A couple attacks, fewer chances, and another unconvincing game from our squad. According to Dellas, Atromitos deserved to go through and were knocked out only because of bad luck. Manolas on the other hand claimed that AEK were the better team. I’m going to go ahead and guess that both teams were equally mediocre at best and that if either team played the Final as they played today, then they wouldn’t stand a chance against Olympiakos.

I’m scared of the Final to be honest. Excited that were in it, happy that it pretty much guarantees us European football next season, but still scared. And not Olympiakos is a great team. As we saw earlier in the season, they are beatable. But as beatable as Olympiakos are, we have proven to be equally unreliable and thats what scares me most. I know that if the team gels well during the game, if we can shut down Olympiakos and generate some pressure in their end, we can get a result. But if we go out and play like we did during some of our weaker performances this season, then we will be in for quite the embarrassment.

Until next Saturday, I’m remaining optimistic. The beauty of a Cup final is that its one match, all or nothing, and trends from the rest of the season often tend to matter little. I know we are capable of beating them or at least able to put up a good fight. If the last Cup final against Olympiakos was anything to go by, we could very well see a pretty entertaining match.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the match will be played in a completely empty stadium and not even with students in the stands as Kontonis suggested would be the case (look at that, another “lie”). A Cup final between these two teams without the two sets of supporters will never be the same, even if it means the inevitable threat of violence is averted. Its unfortunate for our supporters who have waited so long to see AEK get the chance of winning some meaningful silverware but most of all, I’m afraid the game might not have the same energy about it that it normally would. That’s not to say that the players won’t give it their all, but this is one of the biggest derbies in Greece, and in a Cup final; take away the supporters and the game loses almost all of its meaning. Hopefully we still see a good game regardless.

A slight change of topic, but our basketball team is playing game three of the three game series against PAOK tomorrow. I believe the game is at 6:45 Athens time, but I could be mistaken. Either way, I’ll have the chance to watch it (assuming I find a stream) and thank goodness for that since this is, without a doubt, the biggest game of the season for the team so far. We win and we advance to the Final 4, we lose and… well, its over for us.

Atmatzidis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, History with tags , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2016 by alexaek

I have these two books at home filled with AEK stats from every season from 1924 until some time in the 1990s, I believe around 1995. I’ve been thinking about referencing them this summer and doing some posts about previous players we had back in the day, players who often tend to go overlooked despite having made some immense contributions to AEK when they were playing.

In what I could only interpret as some sort of sign encouraging me to actually make these posts, a video showed up as I was browsing the web. The video showed some of the amazing skill and acrobatic ability on display from the one and only Ilias Atmatzidis during our 0-1 win against Olympiakos. This particular game was from the 1997-1998 season, a season in which we had an extremely impressive squad consisting of both Atmatzidis and Chiotis as keepers, defenders such as Kostenoglou, Kasapis, and Kopitsis, Savevski in midfield, topped off with Batista and Nikolaidis in attack. With such a strong squad, its no surprise that we managed to beat PAO and Olympiakos both home and away, although we ultimately fell short in the league after finishing fourteen points behind champions Olympiakos.

So, what exactly was so special about the video that I saw? See for yourselves.

We’ve had a number of incredible keepers throughout the years, with Chiotis and Sorrentino coming to mind from the more recent seasons. I can never forget Sorrentino’s performance against Milan, especially after being in the stadium that night… as much as that victory belongs to Julio Cesar, Sorrentino also deserves just as much credit (I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much frustration on Inzaghi’s face as I have after watching the highlights from that game). However, Atmatzidis will still always be up there with some of the best keeper’s we’ve ever had as far as I’m concerned.

In case you want some more videos to watch, below are some highlights from our home and away wins against Panathinaikos during the 1997-1998 season.

 

PAOK 59-68 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , on April 23, 2016 by alexaek

After a huge win in Thessaloniki, we have some how managed to find away to stay alive for another game. Last week’s loss in the first match of our playoff games against PAOK saw us lose as a result of us giving up a significant lead and letting PAOK back into the game. The result last week meant it was do or die for us in Thessaloniki, a prospect that no team would ever like to come up against.

To be honest, part of me was certain we would find a way to make force out the third game. Obviously no team would like to face PAOK in Thessaloniki, particularly not with so much pressure on, but when we’re playing the basketball that I know we’re capable of, with an effective offense and solid defending, we are equal to, if not better, than PAOK. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that far too often this season we’ve given teams like PAOK too much breathing space, letting them have their way offensively while we somehow manage to find a way to miss every shot. That simply wasn’t the case today. We had a plan and the players managed to stick to it. Thats not to say the game was a walk in the park, but it goes to show that when the majority of the team is having a good game and not just one or two players, we know how to get the job done.

Mavrokefalidis, Brown, and Mavroeidis all had good games but the star of the match was Milosevic with seventeen points and ten rebounds. If we can get the same performances from the same three players, as well as a bit more from players like Kalabokis, Green, and Carter, then there is no reason at all we can’t get past PAOK in the third game back in Athens. The team has put out a call once again for supporters to come out for the game, arguably our most important of the season, and I hope they respond.

For highlights from today’s game, check out the link here.

AEK 1-0 Atromitos… And a Whole Lot More.

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Dellas, football, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , on April 20, 2016 by alexaek

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.

AEK 2-0 Panionios

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2016 by alexaek

A pretty big result for us today against Panionios, and a decent performance as well. I was a bit worried going into this match since I knew Panionios  were coming off of a very big win and have one of the league’s most in form players with Bakasetas. I was also afraid that our poor form from the past few matches would carry through but it seemed the team was determined to put an end to that. In fact, I would have to say that the way we played today was some of the best football I’ve seen us play since we had that winning streak back in January.

There was nothing drastic with our starting lineup today, though the second start in a row for Buonanotte was a positive straight from the get go. Unfortunately, I don’t really think he played as well as AEK365 seems to think he did. I don’t think it really has to do with his ability as a player, but more to do with how he fits in to the formations and style of football we play. He was positioned towards the wing but more often than not ended up playing more centrally, a position on the pitch where he just doesn’t have the presence required to hold up the ball. I personally would like to see him lineup in a formation where we have two forwards with Buonanotte as one, and a larger player like Pekhart or Aravidis playing beside him so that we could still have a larger target man when needed. He definitely has the skill to make huge impacts the way Scocco was able to, but we need to see him playing in a position where his attacking instinct can come into play more easily. Especially when we already have strong players who can hold onto the ball well such as Simoes, Vargas, and Barbosa, I would love to see him play in a position where every first touch he takes is in a position where he can go straight for goal and take a shot or dribble the ball into a dangerous position.

AEK-Panionios

Image source: http://www.aekfc.gr

 

For the most part we played very well going forward. We managed to create some decent chances throughout the first half with Johansson even hitting the post and Aravidis barely missing what would have been a simple tap in. A lot of our effectiveness in attack arose from the fact that we managed to play the ball low and direct, avoiding pointless long balls in the air whenever we could. We managed to keep the ball down and moved it around efficiently with Mantalos, Vargas, and Johansson all linking up very well. Didac also made some fantastic contributions going forward, always providing an option down the wing and often getting the ball dangerously close to Panionios’ net. With some more in form attacking players, we could have gone up by a couple goals before the close of the first half.

Defensively we were okay, but shaky at times. Arzo specifically made what could have been a very costly mistake, one which could have also potentially given a penalty against us. For the most part though, our defense wasn’t quite as active as I thought they would be since Panionios ended up playing far less aggressively than I expected them to. They still managed to get up to our box on a few occasions but they were happy to soak up the pressure for the most part and when they did manage to venture forward, they never ended up looking too dangerous.

With the game still at 0-0 with twenty minutes left, Cordero got sent off for his second yellow of the match. I feared the worse at that point but luckily for us, Poyet made two fantastic changes just before then, bringing on Barbosa for Aravidis, and Pekhart for Vargas. Just two minutes after Cordero’s expulsion from the match, Barbosa and Pekhart linked up brilliantly and put us ahead 1-0 after Pekhart did well to finish a pass from Barbosa despite the angle being less than favourable.

The difference in the tempo of the match after Barbosa was brought on was noticed immediately, and having a new face to target going forward seemed to provide a boost to the team as not long after our first goal Barbosa and Pekhart again linked up very well, this time with Barbosa sending a wonderful long ball forward for Pekhart to latch on to. The shot took a lucky deflection for us, but Pekhart did well to get the ball quickly under control before taking the shot.

Despite only playing for twenty minutes, Pekhart more than deserved the MVP award for doing exactly what was needed when we needed it most. I’ve been a bit harsh on him from after previous games, but he really hasn’t had a great chance to really settle in with the team. Performances like today though really show that if he is in fact given the chance to really find his place in the team, I think he can be a critical player for us. His size and finishing skill make him a perfect target man up front, someone who is tough to defend and can play both high and low balls just as effectively.

All in a all a good performance from the team, and definitely a good sign that we can expect some decent games from the team during the playoffs, as long as they play like today and not like last week (or the week before that). I’m curious if Pekhart’s performance today will land him a position in the starting lineup next match, but I personally wouldn’t mind seeing him as an impact sub off the bench again.

I haven’t found a highlight video yet, but the two goals from today are on YouTube for those who would like to see them. In case you were wondering why the stadium was so quiet today, we were unfortunately playing the first of two home games without fans for our punishment due to the events of our game against Atromitos.

 

A quick note about our basketball team too, after their 87-74 win over Arkadikos over the weekend (a bittersweet win for me since its always disappointing to see a team from my region of the Peloponnese get relegated, as was the case for Arkadikos after their loss) . The win means we finish the league in fourth, setting us up to play PAOK in the playoffs. To be honest, I think we have a good chance of getting past PAOK and into the next round assuming we play well defensively. We beat them early in the season, and had the chance to beat them quite comfortably in Thessaloniki if we hadn’t let that game slip out of our hands due to error after error. With a focused performance in all the games, we can definitely make it through.

 

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