Well, where to start. Am I disapointed that we didn’t come away with all three points? Absolutely. Am I happy with our performance? Absolutely!
I was worried about the game. I knew we had a good team, I knew we were technically capable of getting things done. But still, I was nervous. For a lot of our players, this is their first time experiencing a game like this, and the pressure that comes with it. Certainly it was the first time our players as a team experienced something like this though, honestly, if I didn’t know any better I would have felt they do it every weekend.
Olympiakos had possession throughout the match. And it ends there. They had nothing else at all… They lacked creativity, they made mistake after mistake, they could hardly play as a team. They were embarrassing really, considering this team is in the lead for the championship.
AEK, on the other hand, entered the game for a result. Sure, we sat back a lot of the time, but we did it well, and took full advantage of the chances we made. The way we so calmly dealt with the pressure was the kind of playing I’d expect from a far more experienced team, but I think today we showed the rest of Greece that we are more than ready for a spot in the Super League, a chance to challenge Oly, PAO, and PAOK.
Maybe I’m being biased, but I doubt anyone could have watched the match and not felt we were actually the better team overall. We took advantage of our opportunities and had some fantastic chances. We pressured often, and Olympiakos simply couldn’t cope. Maybe they were complacent, maybe they weren’t expecting it from us, or maybe they really just as bad as they seemed.
All I know is that in our own stadium, and with a fair ref (but who am I kidding…), we have an excellent chance of going through to the next round at the expense of Greece’s “Champions”.
Now that I’ve mentioned the ref, let me just get it out of the way. I don’t know if there were orders given, I can’t make those accusations for sure. Either way, the lack of consistency between the calls he was giving us and them was plain to see to anybody watching. The tiniest of touches and Olympiakos players were down on the ground. With no touch at all they were still on the ground. And almost EVERY time, the ref gladly gave them a free kick.
Did we receive the same treatment? Absolutely not. Though part of that could be due to the fact that our players came to play a game of soccer, rather than lie on the ground and hope they could muster up some sort of a chance (which they rarely did).
Anyways, the game is over, and I’d rather focus on the positives we can carry forward from the game. First off, I’d like to say that the entire team deserves credit for today’s performance. We really played as a unit, and we were all clearly focused on a similar game plan. The system Dellas planed out today worked perfectly, allowing us to work as a team while also giving the flexibility for our players to create some magic on their own. Barbosa, Soleiding, Aravidis, Mantalos, each were heavily involved in moving the ball around, creating space, and ultimately, creating chances. As a team were quick but not rushed, effective and certainly not sloppy.
Our defense was just as organized, frustrating Olympiakos throughout the game. We pressured just as much from the back as we did further up the pitch, and the Olympiakos players simply couldn’t handle it. Sure, they had the ball up in our half often but they rarely managed to get it into any sort of a decent position. And when they did manage to create some sort of a chance, they always failed to capitalize, partly due to their sloppiness, partly due to our effective pressuring.
As far as goalkeeping is concerned, well Anestis wasn’t perfect. I think he could have done better on the Olympiakos goal (though to be fair, it was touch to judge as it probably wasn’t obvious if Milivojevic was going for a shot or a header), and he did make one mistake which almost gifted Olympiakos a goal. But otherwise, he was pretty solid, and had a solid defense to back him up.
Really, we have a lot to be proud of, as does Dellas and our whole team. Everyone was saying how Olympiakos were huge favourites, the odds were stacked incredibly high against us, but the team didn’t let any of that bother them and instead showed up to play the soccer they knew they could. Earlier in the season I was wondering what kind of players we’d need to sign over the summer but honestly, after today’s match, I have no doubt that we now have a very solid core to work around. Sure, a couple additions in certain positions will certainly help but players such as Barbosa, Johansson, Aravidis, Mantalos, and Soleidis have certainly shown they deserve to be playing in the first division.
Below I’ll post a few videos. The first is of our goal, yet another fantastic finish from Aravidis. The second will be of the incredible chance Barbosa narrowly missed, and the third will be of the non-existent foul that led to Olympiakos’ goal.