AEK 1-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, football with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2017 by alexaek

I’ve met many people throughout my relatively young life who simply were not into sports. One thing I often hear from some of these people is that they don’t understand the point of supporting a team, of spending so much of your time and energy towards a team, when you know the chances of ever winning a championship are relatively slim. To be honest, they’re probably right, especially when you support a team in Greece. Look at us AEK supporters for example: sure we win a cup here and there, but we haven’t won a championship since 1994, over 20 years ago.

So why do we show up at the stadium every weekend? Why do AEK supporters in Australia wake up at unimaginable times in the middle of the night to watch the team? Why do those of us in North America interrupt our Sundays to watch an AEK team that we know will not win the championship most of the time? The answer is simple really: its days like today that keep us going, 23 years after our last championship.

Now its not only the fact that we beat PAOK that made this particular Sunday so rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, that was a huge win and I’ll get into why it was in a bit but it was what happened before the game against PAOK that really made this Sunday such a satisfying one for us AEK supporters. Only a couple hours before our triumph on the pitch, we also triumphed on the courts, beating PAO 73-69 to secure our spot in the Basketball Cup Final for the first time in 17 years.

Not much to complain about right? I”ll start with the basketball game since that took place first. We all know that AEK was once one of the best basketball clubs in Europe but for the past decade and a half, PAO and Olympiakos have been undeniably stronger than us. They’re the better teams, its as simple as that, so to beat either of them is a pretty big deal for us. But to beat PAO in the semi finals of the Cup is a huge deal. The fact that it was a close game throughout makes it even more satisfying though I’ll admit that I was afraid we would let the win slip in the end. Luckily we managed to hold on and win, thanks especially to a 25 point 4th quarter which was enough to down PAO in the end.

The Cup Final will take place on the 17th of February (how am I supposed to wait that long???) and will put us up against Olympiakos. The last time we played in the Cup Final? 2001, the year we won it against PAO. It will be a very tough match and Olympiakos will be favourites without a doubt, but I have no doubt that AEK will be up for the challenge.

 

Now before I continue onto the match against PAOK, I have to point out that it wasn’t all good news. Shortly before the match was due to begin, we saw crowd troubles yet again at OAKA, resulting in tear gas for a second time this season. I’m not certain of the details, but from what I could make out on the radio it sounded like it had something to do with security/the police, and the number of fans trying to make their way into the grounds. Again, I’m not sure what exactly happened and what started it all, but I did hear that there were some scuffles between supporters and cops, and that a decent amount of tear gas was released just outside the gates. I haven’t learned of any injuries or arrests, but I do know that the amount of tear gas released was enough to cause the delay of the game by a few minutes until the atmosphere was able to clear out a bit. Unfortunately, it sounds like we might see more punishment as a result of what happened. Almost definitely a fine, and quite likely a ban for our fans from at least one match. All I’m hoping for at this time is that we don’t see a point deduction.

As for the match itself? Well, the excitement carried over to the pitch as well. Only 8 minutes into the match and we saw a red card to Araujo after he shoved Zambrano to the ground. Was it worthy of a red card? Absolutely, but I feel that Zambrano should have gotten a red as well for shoving Araujo prior to Araujo’s shove. The only difference between the two shoves? Zambrano decided to theatrically fall to the ground.

Going a man down that early was worrying, but for some reason I was never too nervous. Araujo has been fairly quiet afterall (maybe this will “wake him up”a bit), plus I figured this would just make a goal against PAOK even more satisfying.

Our goal did eventually come despite playing a man less, with Livaja tucking away a Simoes cross in the 25th minute. We needed some luck on the goal after the ball took a favorable deflection on its way to Simoes, but a goal is a goal in a derby, regardless of how they come.

The playing field leveled itself shortly after, when Zambrano received a second yellow for an obvious challenge. Its safe to say that it was only a matter of time until PAOK received a red as they had been playing some dirty football up to that point (I would expect no less from them though).

From that point on it was a fairly scrappy match with a few chances for either side and many dirty tackles in between. PAOK had their fair share of chances, but it was obvious they were unlikely to score. They definitely put the pressure on but they were anything but clinical in front of our net. Its worth noting that once all was said and done, PAOK had 6 yellow cards and 2 reds. Sound like a derby to you? I’d say so.

Not the prettiest match, but the team did well to come away with the 3 points. We have to keep in mind that we lost Araujo early, we were playing withouth Mantalos, and we were coming off a tough match against Milan. Not easy conditions to play under at all, but its reassuring to see that this team can adapt do whats needed to get results one way or another.

Derbies are always important, but this one carried some extra importance with regards to the standings. As a result of the win, we now move up to 1st place, tied on points with Atromitos. Atromitos technically have the edge due to the fact that they beat us earlier in the season, but its still a great place to find ourselves 10 matches. Were not clear yet since even though we currently have 20 points, PAOK are just behind us on 18 followed by Olympiakos with 17.

 

We have two weeks off until our next game so that Greece can play its World Cup qualifier against Croatia but we’ll be back in business against PAO, at their stadium. To be honest, this is probably the most confident I’ve been in a while about our chances of sneaking away with a win at Leoforos. PAO are an extremely unpredictable team but for the most part they’ve been pretty poor this season. If we’re going to beat them in their own home, this is our chance.

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AEK 0-0 Milan

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by alexaek

Another game against Milan, and another scoreless draw. Would a win have been nice? Oh definitely, especially after watching the highlights and realizing we had more than our fair share of chances to score. Still though, there are some key points to take away from these past two games:

  1. We’re still undefeated, four games into the group stages. Thats a pretty impressive stat bearing in mind this is our first time in the group stages of a European tournament in years.
  2. We managed to prevent Milan from scoring in two straight games, including in their home stadium. Now I know Milan aren’t in the best shape form wise but still, considering their team costs in the range of 200-250 Million Euros (I believe that is more than all Superleague teams combined), its something to be proud of. If anything these past two games show that we have a coach who understands tactics and a team that knows how to implement it.
  3. Today’s game was a key one considering we were missing Mantalos. The game was a key test to show how we would handle the situation without him on the pitch and it seems like we managed to adapt fairly well. I’m sure we would have benefited from his presence, but we still managed to control the tempo for much of the game while creating some great scoring opportunities.

Two games still remain in the group stages but we’re in a decent position. Honestly I’d say that first place in the group is still up for grabs as well, if only slightly. This Milan team has looked shaky at best and with their current form, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Austria Wien or Rijeka manage to hold them to a draw in the last two games. If that were to happen and we were to win our final two games (unlikely but definitely possible), we would finish the Group Stage in first. Not bad at all for our first time back after an extended absence. Having said that, second place is definitely ours to take at this point. I’m sure we have at least another win and a draw from the final two games in store for us which would, I believe, seal at least second place.

As for today’s game itself, I was able to follow the commentary for much of it and from what I read it sounded like we played well. It seemed as though we had a plan, were able to stick with it and, most importantly, we weren’t able to attack. In fact it sounded like we were the stronger team throughout much of the match and after watching the highlights, I think that was confirmed. I was looking at some stats as well and I think throughout the first half, Milan had the ball in our box only twice and didn’t manage a shot until well into the match.

Equally impressive were our supporters. Its a shame we weren’t able to sell out like we did the last time Milan came to town, but reports say there were around 50,000 in attendance which is a pretty decent number. It definitely puts the low attendance figures for Milan in their home match against us to shame. Unfortunately there was an incident where some Milan fans were ambushed supposedly by AEK supporters. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I read that around 9 Milan supporters and 3 AEK supporters were injured but I don’t believe any of the injuries were particularly serious.

A win would have been nice, especially considering our chances, but I’ll take the draw. More importantly for us now is our match against PAOK this weekend. Its a huge match since a win will land us in 2nd place, two points over PAOK. In fact depending on how Atromitos fare with Panionios, we could even find ourselves in 1st by the end of the weekend.

 

Panionios 0-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2017 by alexaek

Well that was a little too close for comfort. It wasn’t until 80 minutes in to the game that we got the winning goal by Araujo but the 3 points are what matter most as far as I’m concerned.

This game was a crucial one for a few reasons. First of all we desperately needed a win seeing as its been weeks since we’ve won a match in the league and my confidence in the team was starting to take a hit. On top of that, today’s result gives us a great chance to regain some ground in the standings and put some distance between us and Olympiakos after PAO won their derby against the Reds yesterday by a score of 1-0. With our win today we currently sit in 2nd with 17 points, two behind Atromitos who are in 1st with 19. That could change tomorrow depending on how PAOK’s game with Tripolis goes but regardless of what happens there, we now find ourselves up 3 points over Olympiakos which is always nice to see.

It wasn’t an easy game, which is to be expected seeing as playing against Panionios in Nea Smyrni is a match that can often go either way. Today though, AEK were clearly the better team and if it wasnt for some amazing saves by the Panionios keeper we could have comfortably won this game 2-0 or 3-0. The team did well overall, but we still need more composure in the box.

Defensively we were pretty sound and managed to get the ball back in our control with relative ease. Aside from a few long balls or balls in from set plays, Panionios never really looked too close to scoring.

Our midfield also looked pretty good and what I liked to see was that we mixed things up in the middle of the pitch. We would slow things down at times only to then launch a quick attack from a bunch of one touch passes which would lead to the Panionios defenders scrambling back to their positions. It seemed to work most of the time, but I thought the closer we got to the net the more predictable we became as most attacks often ended up on the wings. We definitely had our chances and as I mentioned earlier some great goalkeeping was all the really kept Panionios in it.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good for news for AEK. Mantalos, who had another great game for AEK, had to leave the pitch later in the match after appearing to be in much discomfort. Xrays will take place tomorrow to determine just how serious the injury is, but the early reports don’t sound good.

Today’s game wasn’t the only match we played this week. We also had a Cup game earlier in the week on Thursday, against 3rd division side Apollon Larissa. Its safe to say that it was clear the team we were playing against was a 3rd division after we comfortably breezed past them with a score of 7-0. The game had a feel of a friendly really but it doesn’t hurt the confidence of the team to see some goals go in.

The whole game for those who wish to watch it is available here:

Alternatively a highlight video is also available:

AEK 0-1 Atromitos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos with tags , , , on October 23, 2017 by alexaek

After managing a rather respectful result in Milan last week, we got this week started off with an embarrassing result in Athens. A win today would have put us back in 1st but instead we find ourselves in 3rd with 3 other teams even on points.

It was a game we should have won on paper and judging from the stats, we really should have found a way to put at least one goal in the back of the net. 65% possession for AEK and 17 chances, 11 of which were on target? I don’t care how good Atromitos might have defended, theres no reason for AEK to not be able to score a single goal on Atromitos with 11 chances on net.

Its frustrating because we’ve seen this story with AEK before. Earlier this season we had the chance to go 1st but instead put in a disappointing performance to lose to Tripolis. Even during the 2007-2008 season we had the chance to seal 1st place and the championship but we lost games we really should have won and gave up points that we couldn’t afford to lose. We need to do something to make sure we can get this season back on track, even if that means making some more singings over winter. The simple fact is that the league is just too close this year to be able to risk anything or take any chances. How close? Two points separate 1st place and 6th place. There is absolutely no wiggle room and any points dropped at this stage are extremely costly.

All in all a disappointing result but to be honest, I was kind of expecting something like this to happen. We have a big chance to make a bit of an impact on the standings when we face Panionios this weekend and PAOK next weekend, but on the flip side those are two games which could see us slip further behind in the standings. The trouble is that we aren’t playing terribly in the sense that we’re creating chances. Just watching the highlights from today’s game shows just that. Our finishing is clearly whats hurting us though. Today’s game could have easily resulted in a win had we been a little more accurate which is frustrating to say the least, knowing that we were so close. A lot of it comes down to our attackers under performing, especially Araujo. We signed him with the expectation that he would finish most of the chances hes been having but hes been pretty disappointing on a number of occasions.

Oh well, nothing we can do about this one other than hopefully learn from our mistakes. I’m sure Jimenez will have the team working on their finishing because clearly we need to start seeing some improvement. 1 goal in our last 3 league games is simply not good enough if we realistically expect to challenge for the title.

Milan 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, Jimenez with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by alexaek

Facing Milan in the San Siro is never an easy task, especially not against a Milan team that on paper looks to be stronger than in previous seasons. Today though, AEK showed no fear in what was the hardest match of the Europa League group stages and instead executed a game plan that stifled Milan and even lead to some good chances of our own.

Credit goes to many people, most notably Anestis who made a number of crucial saves to keep AEK in the game and within grasp of at least one point. He hasn’t been the most consistent keeper and we all know this, but today he proved why he deserves the starting role on this team. Of course it was also a team effort which led to the result and credit for this also goes to Jimenez. I’ve only managed to watch the first 15 minutes so far but from what I’ve seen and read, the team managed to execute a game plan which was able to contain Milan but also lead to considerable presence in Milan’s half. Sure we sat back a bit and expected to soak up some pressure but also managed to venture forward with confidence on a number of occasions. From what I could see we managed to dictate the tempo perfectly at times, something which was key against a Milan team who would have been looking to make a better impression after their loss to Inter over the weekend.

The result, aside from keeping our undefeated streak in the group stages alive, also gives a vital point in the standings. Its still close but 2nd place is definitely within reach and we still have two home games left. Currently Milan are in 1st with 7 points followed by AEK in 2nd with 5 points and Rijeka in 3rd with 3 points. Our next game is a home game against Milan and to be completely honest, theres no reason we can’t go for a win. We’ve beat Milan at home when they were the best team in Europe, so surely we have a chance against a Milan that is especially uninspiring at the moment. Even if we don’t get a win at home but instead manage another draw, we should still be able to beat Rijeka at home as well as Austria Wien away which would be more than enough to get us through to the next round.

It was an exciting game from start to end and while Milan had the bulk of the chances, we created a number of noteworthy chances of our own. Of note is our chance at the 40 second mark in the video below, easily the best chance of the game from what I can see.

The players naturally did their part, but our supporters deserve a special mention too. They were outsanding and the 4,000 of them in attendance managed to make the San Siro sound like Nea Filadelfia. All I could hear on TV while watching the first 15 minutes were AEK chants and it didn’t seem to end at any point during the game. I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than in the stands with AEK supporters at a match like this..

 

Xanthi 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by alexaek

After our first loss of the season to Tripolis a couple weeks ago, its safe to say we were all hoping for a bounce back win to get our title push back on track. Well, all we got instead was a rather disappointing 1-1 draw. The point helps keep us within reach of PAOK as we only sit one point behind them in 2nd, but a win would have been just enough to keep us in 1st.

It was a frustrating game to watch to say the least, as the stats clearly suggest. Possession was 65% in our favour and we more than dominated in terms of creating chances: 4 for Xanthi and 18 for AEK (with 6 chances on target). Zivkovic was great in nets for Xanthi and it was just one of those days where the ball just didn’t want to go in the back of the net. It doesn’t help that Araujo clearly still hasn’t found some good form. I’m not sure if its the pressure of the expectations of last season, or if theres something else but I was expecting him to find some form by now. If he doesn’t find it soon we could be in trouble since hes naturally a big part of this team.

At the end of the day I can’t say I’m too surprised with the result. Xanthi is one of those towns along with Tripolis where we often seem to struggle. You just have to look back at our past games in Xanthi dating back to 2012 season and the results dont paint a very promising picture: One win, one loss, and four draws. All in all its not the end of the world for us just yet as we still have a three point buffer between us and Olympiakos, but we wont be this lucky for much longer. Olympiakos got their first win this weekend since the 26th of August but if past seasons are anything to go by, its only a matter of time until Olympiakos get back to winning form one way or another. We’ll also have to be weary of PAO who have managed to put together 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season and while they might not seem like a threat at the moment, they can’t be discounted quite yet.

 

As dissappointing as that result was, hopefully the team can put it behind them and focus on the upcoming match against AC Milan at the San Siro. We’ve never beat Milan away from home, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out to strong to make a good impression after their derby loss to Inter over the weekend. I know we have a good team, but I’m not expecting the three points here. Having said that, Rijeka managed to give them a hard time in Milan a few weeks ago, so perhaps they have some weakness we can take advantage of.

Asteras Tripolis 2-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Superleague with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2017 by alexaek

We suffered our first loss over the weekend and though we might be lucky to still be in 1st, we chose an awful weekend to drop so many points. Why you might ask? With PAOK drawing and Olympiakos losing at home, we had a golden opportunity to increase our lead in 1st to 4 points. Instead, we find ourselves lucky to still be in 1st after Lamia beat Panionios earlier today.

It could be worse for sure, but its disappointing still. Its especially disappointing since it feels as though this loss could have been avoided. I missed this match too unfortunately but I followed it and was surprised to see some of the decisions Jimenez went with. What really surprised me at first was the fact that we started with Tsintotas in goal. Now I’m not saying that he was to blame for any of the goals (to be honest I haven’t even seen the highlights yet), but why start with him in possibly our most important game of the season so far? He hasn’t even played yet in the league this season afterall.

We also started with Giannoutsos and Vinicius in defense and it seems as though neither of them had a great game either. Giannoutsos specifically was making his Superleague debut in a high pressure game and Vinicius was apparently largely to blame for the opening goal. It just doesn’t make sense why Jimenez would risk so much in a game like this. I understand that the players were tired, we saw this clearly in our Europa league match earlier this week, but we have two weeks until our next game and plenty of time for the players to rest before then. It seems very odd that Jimenez would make these moves; maybe he thought it was a risk worth taking. Its safe to say that the result was not what he was hoping for so the best we could expect is that he might not take such big risks in the future.

It didn’t sound like the most exciting game and it seems as though when both Livaja and Lazaros are not in the starting lineup, then we really struggle to create genuine chances. Whats really alarming when looking at the stats is that we had 2 shots inside the box while Tripolis had 6. A porous defense and an attack that could hardly create anything worthwhile, definitely not what we like to see. To make things worse, this is the 3rd game in a row now where we concede just after half time, with Tripolis’ opening goal coming in the 47th minute. Its a weird trend if I may say so myself but after seeing it happen three games in a row, I’m starting to wonder if its more than just coincidence.

Overall a disappointing weekend, but like I said we’re still 1st with 13 points while PAOK are closely behind us on 12 points. Its worth noting that after their loss, Olympiakos 7th with 8 points, only 2 points ahead of PAO who got off to an awful start this season. Its definitely an interesting start to the season and while its a little too close for comfort from an AEK supporter perspective, it definitely has more potential to be one of the more exciting championships we’ve seen in a while.