AEK 5-1 Iraklis

Despite all the events of the past week, AEK managed to rebound in the best possible way. Not only did we manage to get the three points from the win, but we did it by playing some great football and scoring the most goals we’ve scored in one game for many years now.

I was somewhat nervous about the game for a few reasons. First of all, regardless of the fact that Iraklis also just came up from the second division, they are a team that can never be taken lightly. Plus, having just lost our coach, I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction the players were going to have. I’m very happy to see they were able to respond positively since I feel that it shows that the team definitely has some character. To come back from a heavy loss to our rivals and having your coach resign two days later, to come back from all that and play some of the best football they’ve played yet this season shows that there is definitely something good to build on with this team.

I only managed to have a working stream for part of the second half so I unfortunately missed all of our goals as they happened. I was able to follow the commentary online and on the radio though, and while it certainly helped that Iraklis were clearly not having a great day, there was no doubt that our attacking play was quite good. We seemed to have a lot of players who all found their form at once such as Barbosa and Vargas, but the key to this game was Mantalos. He didn’t manage to score a goal himself (though he did come close on a nice shot from far out), but he was heavily involved in almost all of the goals we scored. The game showed us just how important a role he can play when he is fit and in form and while it gives me some relief knowing we can make and finish chances, I also feel like we have such a wasted opportunity. With a player like Mantalos, who is able to read and set up plays so well, its such a shame that we did not invest a little more in some solid strikers, people who could latch on to the balls he sends in and finish consistently.

I’m not too sure how we looked defensively, partly because Iraklis had so few opportunities to create anything dangerous in our own ends. Kolovetsios played instead of Tzanetopoulos for the game, so I’ll be interested to see if Manolas sticks with Kolovetsios for the cup game this week as well.

Our next two games are a cup game away to Xanthi, and PAO away. Two tough games, but I’m actually confident we can get anywhere from four to six points of the two games. Xanthi will be tough but I feel like something special clicked last game and I certainly hope we can carry the momentum through to that game too. We’ve already played Xanthi away this season and while we didn’t end up scoring, we weren’t exactly outplayed either. With Mantalos on form, I’m sure we can get the win.

I’m without a doubt worried about the PAO game away, but PAO lost 3-1 today to PAOK, and derbies can always go either way. PAO’s form is nothing exceptional, and I actually don’t think they have a particularly great team this season. They’ll have  the advantage of playing at home, and they definitely have a few solid players, but I think if we play well then we can definitely compete pretty evenly with them.

For those who haven’t been following the news lately regarding our coaching situation, we are supposedly pretty close to signing Gus Poyet as our next manager. I’m not entirely familiar with him, but I know he has some experience in the Premier League which can’t be a bad thing. I know some people were hoping for a manager with more experience, but perhaps having someone younger with some Premier League experience might benefit us more in the end, especially as far as attracting new players is concerned. I’m hoping something will be wrapped up in the next few days, but on the other hand I like what Manolas did for our game against Iraklis (even though it was quite similar to the team Dellas was fielding) so I wouldn’t mind seeing him continue until just past the PAO game. I’m a bit worried that having a new coach come in now before such important games might affect the players a bit.

http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/sport/football/sunderland-afc/sunderland-ex-manager-gus-poyet-wanted-by-aek-athens-1-7533800

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