AEK 0-1 Saint Etienne
I really thought we had a chance of winning this one, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. The team deserves credit first and foremost though; we went into this game as clear underdogs, if only because of our lack of European football in recent years. After the two games though, its clear that neither team really stood out as significantly better than the other as it was only one lucky goal which made the difference.
We didn’t have luck on our side for this match ever since the news broke out that Johansson might be missing the game. Late last night I read that the outlook for him had become more positive and there was hope he might just manage to be match fit for the game but in the end he wasn’t, and we suffered greatly without him on the pitch. To be honest, I don’t think Ketsbaia handled his absence and you’ll probably find most people saying the same thing. To try and fill the massive void left by Johansson, Ketsbaia started with Lambropoulos in the middle along aside Simoes. This clearly turned out to be a rather poor choice as the gap in midfield was a big part of why we struggled to get a rhythm going. I know many people have been saying that Tzanetopoulos should have started in Lambropoulos’ place but I’m not so sure we would have been any better off. I know Tzanetopoulos has played that position a couple times before, but that was against far easier opposition. It was just as big a risk with both players and considering Lambropoulos looked alright in pre-season friendlies, I can’t blame Ketsbaia too much for his choice.
Its unfortunate that we had to bow out of Europe so early on, especially when we had such a good chance of going through just before the game started. Dwelling on the past and thinking about what could have been can only get us so far though so I think its worth looking at some of the positives for the game. Though I only managed to catch bits of it, one player who absolutely stood out for me (again) was Chygrynskiy. He has been proving himself lately and today was no exception. I went to watch Roma play a friendly yesterday against Montreal and watching Chygrynskiy after watching Roma less than 24 hours ago really made me feel as if I was watching De Rossi again. I know De Rossi and Chygrynskiy play two different positions but the way they both handle things on the pitch, in a calm and no-nonsense kind of way, really stood out to me.
The other biggest positive I can take from the game is, yet again, our supporters. Considering the match was on a weekday and in the peak of the summer holiday season, it was a pretty respectable sized crowd. What made me even happier to hear though was how the team was applauded at the end of the match. At the end of the day, the team is still building and transitioning from the turmoil of the past four years and it makes me happy to see that now, when the team needs it most, our supporters are still for them. We might not have the strongest AEK we’ve seen in years, but we definitely have a decent team that can beat any other team in the league on a good day. Combine that with solid support throughout the season and I think we could be in for some great games.
Highlights from today:
And for anyone who hasn’t seen the match in France yet, you can catch it in its entirety here: