AEK Start Season With a Win

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Greek Football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by alexaek

A 2-0 win today means that we get off to a good start this season, although the game wasn’t exactly pretty for much of the time.

We got off to a pretty good start after Traustason was brought down in the box which resulted in a penalty being awarded to AEK. Marcos Paulo was lucky to get only a yellow when he really should have been sent off, but Panaitolikos weren’t so fortunate as Almedia comfortably converted the penalty shot to put us ahead fourteen minutes in.

The game never really picked up from then on for either side though Panaitolikos did come close on a couple occasions. The next real turning point came when Almeida was sent off with a straight red for elbowing Chantakia in the face. At first I thought that it was a harsh decision but the more I look at the replays, the more it seems like the right call. Either way it really wasn’t a smart move by Almeida as the red gave Panaitolikos some new found energy which they quickly converted into more chances. Some poor finishing on Panaitolikos’ part along with some good saves by Anestis were pretty much all that kept us in the game for the remainder of the first half.

The second half saw another red, this time for Panaitolikos after Marcos Paulo received a second yellow. It was at this point where the balance started to tip in AEK’s favour again, ultimately resulting in a second goal for AEK. Johansson was the scorer after Mantalos sent a pass across to the Swede across an empty goal. The goal was originally called back supposedly for offside, leaving myself and the commentators rather confused. Thankfully the decision was overturned and the goal ultimately awarded to AEK after replays showed that there was no offside and no foul on the play. It was nice to see that instant replays, which are being piloted in the Greek and Russian leagues at the moment, might actually work in Greece.

The game ultimately ended 2-0 and while it wasn’t always pretty, its a great three points to start the season off with. The game was played in an empty OAKA as a punishment for the incidents that took place in last season’s Cup Final so to come away with a win without home support and playing a man down for much of the first half was a relief.

Overall I’d have to say that Anestis actually looked pretty good, and our defense wasn’t terrible. It was our offense that really let us down again, just as in the games against CSKA. We struggled to really create many worthwhile chances and there was an obvious lack of creativity going forward. Even the set plays were a disappointment as they more often than not ended up being intercepted by a defender. We might be lucky to get the three points today but without a noticeable improvement to our offense I can see us struggling to score goals against a lot of teams in the league this season. Araujo would be a great addition to the club right about now…

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2017 by alexaek

It was a stalemate today in Brugge despite both teams coming close to scoring on a number of chances. Perhaps a disappointing result in terms of excitement, but its definitely a result which puts us in a good position to advance further in the Europa League. The result certainly doesn’t guarantee anything but starting on equal footing at home after a promising performance in the first leg sets us up nicely.

It was definitely an improved performance over how we played against CSKA based on what I’ve been reading and seeing in highlights. Even Anestis managed to have a solid outing despite some shaky games against CSKA in which his judgment left much to be desired. All in all it sounds like the entire team put in a good showing today aside from Klonaridis, though if I remember correctly I read an article which stated that he was playing with an injury.

As I was following the commentary it definitely seemed like we started strong. Unlike our matches against CSKA though, we were able to create some quality chances today. It was nice to see some creativity from the team too, something which goes to show that the chemistry might have improved considerably compared to our previous two matches. Jimenez even mentioned after the match that even though the team might still be lacking in a couple areas, they’re certainly playing with passion and grit.

Some nice highlights in the video below though my personal favourite would have to be that chance off the free kick right at the end. Had that managed to sneak in it would have been the perfect way to end a match. You’ll also notice during the highlights that Livaja got sent off in the 58th minute. I couldn’t see any legitimate cause for a second yellow and AEK365 seemed to feel the same way. Its unfortunate that we’ll miss him for the next match as he seemed to have played a good match today, but I’m sure Jimenez can work something out. Lazaros could start in his position next week or perhasps we can even see Giakoumakis being given a chance.

Catching Up

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on August 14, 2017 by alexaek

Its been quite a while since my last post and quite a bit has happened since then so I’ll go through a recap of the major stories below.

CSKA Eliminate AEK from Champions League

So our much anticipated return to the Champions League, albeit in the qualifying rounds, was a disappointment. Everyone expected CSKA to be a tough team to come up against and truth be told they were the stronger team. Having said that, a better result was definitely possible but we ultimately came up short losing 2-0 in Athens and 1-0 in Moscow. Its hard to say whether we were more let down by our goaltending and defending, or by our lack of offense. A lot of the blame definitely falls on our defense and goaltending due to the similar nature of all three goals. I understand letting one corner slip in, but when all three goals conceded come from corners, something clearly isn’t right. The team should have learned from the first but it seemed like they didn’t.

I’m hoping our defending of corners was just something momentary that affected us during those two CSKA games because if not, I could see a lot of teams targeting us on set plays if it clearly becomes a weakness. It didn’t help over the two CSKA games that our offense was lacking. We created a few chances during the second leg, after we had already gone down by two goals, but we struggled to make any meaningful progress into CSKA territory during the first leg. It wasn’t so much that we couldn’t finish, but rather that we simply couldn’t even create any worthwhile chances.

I’m not convinced Jimenez went with the best lineup for the first match either. Giakoumakis wasn’t even included as a sub, and I feel like we would have been better off going forward if either Patito or Klonaridis had been in the starting lineup.

 

Club Brugge Next European Opponent for AEK

Our next European match will be a Europa League qualifier against Belgian side Club Brugge. Brugge, similarly to CSKA, have gotten off to a promising start in their league so they seem to be in good form. I feel like a positive result is definitely possible, but we will have to play better than we did against CSKA. I know we aren’t a powerhouse, but I feel like the team let their guard down in those two games against CSKA, something which we really can’t afford to do again. I’m sure we’ll be more weary of corners this time around but its our offense that worries most. The fact that we didn’t score a single goal against CSKA is a concern for me since this team has the ability to do better. I think a lot of our success will come from simply calming things down and taking more control of the game. Brugge have scored nine goals in their first three league games so we clearly can’t afford to let them get too comfortable.

Possible Araujo Return

There has been a lot of talk lately in Spain and Greece regarding the situation with Araujo at Las Palmas. He has been left out of the lineup for the majority of their games recently and it seems like he is increasingly looking to get away again. At one point, he even “liked” a post on instagram asking him to come back to AEK and its clear he still looks at AEK fondly. I don’t know what kind of move it would be if he were to come back with regards to it being a transfer (still unlikely we can afford that) or as another loan. All I know at this point is that we can really use someone like him to boost our attack. With some European games coming up as well, it would be a good chance for him to showcase himself to a wider audience.

Stadium Progress

There was a comment on last post about the team acquiring the final license needed to start construction of the stadium. Shortly after that the team hosted a festival in the grounds of the where the stadium will be built with live music and a blessing of the land. It looked like an amazing atmosphere, one filled with happiness and celebration, the kind of thing we normally see when we win a cup.

I’ll admit that I was excited since it was so hard not to be. But, I was still a bit hesitant. I mean theres been so many promises over the years that its hard to really believe it might some day be happening. Well, if I had any doubt before, its safe to say that it is all but gone. The two videos below show some of the construction progress that has been taking place and it genuinely looks like we might see the foundations of a stadium show up their soon. To think that we will one day within the next few years finally have our own stadium is, while hard to believe, such an amazing feeling. Not only will we have our own stadium but we will have the stadium which will be hands down the most impressive venue in Greek sports. Simply just browsing through the comments on various sports sites and it is clear that even PAO and Olympiakos fans are at least a little bit jealous of what will some day be our new home.

 

Basketball Team Making Progress

It had been a fairly quiet off season for our basketball team these past few months, something which had me a bit worried. However over the past few weeks, Aggelopoulos has made some significant signings which will bolster our squad significantly, notably the singings of Manny Harris and Delroy James, two players with significant experience in American and European basketball. We also signed promising 19 year old Giannis Agravanis, one of the more highly regarded talents for the Greece youth system. Its still early and I’m expecting a couple more singings, but it seems like we might have a competitive team this season. Its hard to say whether they will be significantly stronger than last season’s roster, but I feel like there will at least a bit of an improvement.

AEK Set To Face CSKA

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Jerseys with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2017 by alexaek

The day many of us have been awaiting patiently (more likely rather impatiently) has finally arrived. In less than 24 hours from the publishing of this post, AEK will have finally played a Champions League game, the first in essentially a decade.

Our opponent for this 3rd qualifying round match is the Moscow based club CSKA. Most sources are understandably listing CSKA as the favourites, not least because their season has already been underway. AEK, on the other hand, have yet to play a competitive match with many of our new singings but that doesn’t worry me all that much. We’re expected to have a good crowd supporting the team in OAKA as ticket sales have been pretty steady over the past week and the team will definitely have enough motivation to put in a good performance. In fact I’ve just read that 15,000 tickets have been sold, plus the approximately 7,000 season tickets. That puts us at a crowd of around 21,000 though that will surely increase more throughout the day tomorrow.

AEK365 is reporting that Anestis will get the start in nets after Barkas sustained a rather serious injury that could see him sidelined for up to three months. In front of Anestis we can expect to see Bakakis, Chygrynskiy, Vranjes, and Lopes. Simoes will likely be paired with either Johansson or Galanopoulos with Livaja a little further up the pitch. Completing our attack will be Mantalos and Lazaros with Klonaridis expected to be up front if he is match fit.

Its not a bad lineup with some pretty good Greek representation. Its reassuring to see that Jimenez isn’t afraid to play Greeks when they deserve the spot since those are more often than not the players that the club will be built around.

Tomorrow’s match will take place at 8:30 PM Athens time which is 1:30 PM New York time or 3:30 AM Sydney time (on the 26th of July). I can’t really say what to expect from CSKA as I’m not at all familiar with the club, but they did just come off a 3-1 loss in the league against Lokomotiv Moscow. Having said that, they’re still undoubtedly a strong side but a positive result for AEK in Athens is more than possible. Its supposed to be a warm afternoon in Athens with a high of 32°C which could play in our favour as Moscow seems to be averaging mid to high 20s around this time of year. 

I’m not certain which kits we’ll be wearing but they’ll definitely be different than last season’s kits as new kits were released earlier in July. The First kit is similar to last year’s striped one, but with a slightly different style. Its not radically different but I still quite like it:

Its also possible we could wear our Third kit, one which I must say is quite gorgeous. I’m not convinced that it works as a jersey really simply because the details get lost when watching in the stands or on TV and it ends up looking like a plain black training kit. As something that I would want to purchase and wear myself though, it is stunning. Maybe a little more yellow around the edge of the Dikefalo would have helped make everything stand out a little more though:

Its an exciting day tomorrow and while I’m disappointed that I’ll have to be at work, I’ll definitely try to follow it as much as possible. Fingers crossed one of the Greek TV channels I have on TV will also be showing it so I can watch it after work. Either way theres a lot to look forward to and if we can come away with a positive result tomorrow, anything will be possible. Forza AEKara!

Pre-Season Friendlies Have Begun

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Friendlies, Singings with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2017 by alexaek

Its that time of year again, where we start to get a first look at how the team might line up this season. Of course, theres only so much we can gather from these games as the experimental lineups and lower pace don’t provide an accurate representation of how we’ll play when the season properly starts, but it gives us a good look at some of our recent signings and what we can expect of them.

Our first friendly was yesterday, a game against Karpaty Lviv which ended in a 1-1 draw. Giakoumakis was the goal scorer for us in this game and from most accounts it sounds like he got off to a promising start. I’m expecting pretty good things from him this season seeing as he looked quite promising this past season. We’ve seen players in his situation before, arriving at the team with high expectations only to ultimately let us down, but the talent is definitely there with Giakoumakis.

 

Our second friendly which took place earlier today was against a familiar opponent: Korona Kielce. We played them in a friendly last summer as well, a game which AEK won by a score of 2-0. Our result was less impressive today with us winning 1-0, but again there was apparently some impressive play from a lot of our players. Klonaridis scored a wonderful goal and has definitely provided us with reason to be excited for this season. He also looked good this past season and I have a feeling we could see some good play up front with Mantalos, Giakoumakis, and Klonaridis linking up well. I’m not yet sure if Klonaridis and Giakoumakis will be playing similar roles but if theres a way to have them both playing, we could definitely be in good shape offensively.

 

There have also been some singings since my last post, the three most notable being Marko Livaja, Uros Cosic, and Arnor Traustason. Agonasport have a nice writeup on the three players here. Traustason definitely sounds extremely promising, but Cosic also has some solid experience for someone on the younger side.

 

 

Transfers So Far

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by alexaek

With the team having recently arrived in Poland for pre-season training, there have already been moves taken with the hopes of strengthening the squad for our return to the Champions League.

In my opinion the biggest move we’ve made so far was the re-singing of Jimenez. There was some uncertainty about a month or so ago regarding whether we’d hold onto Jimenez for at least another season but the team has cleared that up after a new deal was agreed. As far as I’m concerned this is exactly what we could have hoped for. We saw how quickly he managed to turn the team around last season after he re-joined us, I can only imagine what he could do with a full pre-season as well. It has been far too long since we had a serious and experienced coach for a pre-season so having him here from the start will really see us start in the right direction if we hope to progress at all in the Champions League.

As far as players are concerned, we have made a few singings so far with the first notable singing being that of Helder Lopes. The Portuguese left-back joins us from Las Palmas, the same Las Palmas which currently owns the rights to Sergio Araujo. Haven’t personally seen much of him so I can’t really comment on what he brings to the team, but we’ve had pretty decent luck lately with Portuguese players like Barbosa and Simoes so I can only hope that trend continues with Lopes.

 

We’ve also officially completed the deal to bring over Giakoumakis from Cretan club Platanias. A deal had already been agreed with the players last season but the deal was only able to be finalized this pre-season.  Hes a very promising player who is coming off a couple strong seasons with Platanias. Considering Aravidis was released from the club not too long ago, its a nice to see us strengthen our attack with another promising young Greek.

 

Arguably the biggest singing for the club this season so far though has been the re-signing of Klonaridis. Klonaridis, who became the first player to go from AEK, to PAO, and back to AEK, was picked up for a bargain of a price at a reported 800,000 Euros. Not bad for a player who has already proven himself in this league. Don’t get me wrong, hes not the greatest Greek to wear our jersey by any means, but especially for the price, hes a great addition to the club. He genuinely seems pretty excited to be back at AEK to which I like to see and I have a feeling he could play a big part in any success we have this season.

In addition to our recent singings, we’ve seen a few players released with the most recent being Vargas and Kolovetsios. Its unfortunate to see them both leave as they both brought a lot to the club. Kolovetsios had been with us for a few years by now and had been a great member of the club, causing very few issues along the way. He was always ready to be called upon when needed and though we have solidified our depth in the centre-back position, its too bad we couldn’t find a place for him in the team. Having said that, it was pretty clear his playing time would be limited this season and he still has many years ahead of him so from his point of view this was the right thing to do. On the right club, he could easily become a key player.

Vargas was also an unfortunate loss for us. I’m not sure why exactly his playing time dropped so much under Jimenez, if it was simply a matter of him not fitting the system or if there was something else behind the scenes, I couldn’t say. What I can say though is that I’ll never forget the many moments these past two seasons where he came up big when we needed it. Afterall, how can we forget the player who scored the game winner in our home derbies against PAO, PAOK, and Olympiakos all in one season.

AEK Returns to Champions League

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2017 by alexaek

After a ten year absence, AEK has the chance to book a place in the group stages of the Champions League next season. Of course it wont be easy as there is the potential of some big clubs standing in our way, but even just the chance to see us play in some Champions League qualifiers is an exciting prospect.

So, how did we end up here? Well it ultimately comes as a result of our win against Panionios today in Nea Smirni. The game got off to a rocky start with Panionios scoring first but it was clear AEK weren’t going to standby and gift a win to Panionios with the chances they were creating. Panionios didn’t end up holding on to their lead for long though as 13 minutes after they opened the scoring, AEK responded with a goal of their own courtesy of Mantalos.

The game got a little more interesting in the second half when Panionios had a man sent off which was followed by Lazaros getting a straight red. With ten players on each side, it was anyone’s game but it was Araujo who, in what was most likely his last game for AEK, scored the winner with a nicely taken header.

The win was a critical one since PAOK were right on our tails in the standings but Panathinaikos’ win in Toumba took off some of the pressure. With the playoffs having drawn to a close, we finished with 12 points from the six games; not perfect, but it was enough for the team to accomplish what it set out to.

Aside from clinching a place in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, the game was also notable for quite likely being Araujo’s last with the team. I say “likely” because while I doubt we’ll see him back with the club next season, I’m still somewhat hopeful something can be worked out. Its clear he has enjoyed his time with the club (this was made even more evident today after he mentioned his love for the club and his desire to return as soon as possible) and he clearly has the potential to play a massive role in the team. His price tag is high but even if we cant outright buy him, maybe he’ll put some pressure on Las Palmas to extend his stay in Athens where he’ll have much more of an opportunity to develop as a player.

The game could also have been Jimenez’s final match in charge of the club. I certainly hope this isn’t the case as hes turned the club around significantly, but he hasn’t committed to the team yet and there have yet to be any negotiations between Jimenez and management. It would be a huge shame to see him leave after this season: hes established himself once again at AEK, he has gained the trust of the players, and he has brought some much needed stability to the club. I’m not sure what his demands will be in order for him to stick around next season, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they can be reached.

Highlights of the match:

Supporters chanting Araujo’s name after the match: