AEK Returns to Champions League

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:

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8 Responses to “AEK Returns to Champions League”

  1. Chris Zap Says:

    just a couple of comments:
    1) If it wasnt for an “own” goal by the Panionios player and the PAO game where a fan threw a beer can at the PAOK coach, PAOK would have finished last in these playoffs.

    2) EPO still hasnt decided how to punish AEK & PAOK for their fans behaviour during the cup game. They said they will decide after the palyoffs, thats 25 days after that game! It’s awfully suspicious why they want to wait for the playoffs to decide, so there is a chance that we may lose that top spot depending on what they decide. They pushed PAOK during that game, they might just push them again!!

    • gtmanleg Says:

      It would be horrible if we lost the spot in the playoffs due to a cup situation; those are totally unrelated events.

      Great win. I really do hope we keep Jimenez around.

      • A lot of unrelated events take place in Greek football. I do hope we keep Jimenez. We were 7th when he took over!
        He gave a press conference today, spoke about a lot of stuff including those two horrible games that we lost big time, one to Olympiakos 6-0 and the other to Olympiakos Volou 4-0. He said these games were not played on the field. Basically they were lost due to betting. Which i guess it was expected since the players were not getting paid at the time. Which explains why Saja terminated his contract and took off running. He collected his money through other means. I was there at OAKA at that game and couldnt believe what i was seeing. It was the only time i got up and left in disgust before the game ended. You could see how easily Saja was leting them in. Anyway, i dont blame him, they have no allegiance to the team and its history. And i am sure the same applies to some of the other foreign players at the time. I am sure there is a good reason why Scocco doesnt want to return. At the time he was very good at picking which games he would show up to play at. Just my two cents worth.

      • alexaek Says:

        It really would be pretty awful. Having said that we’ve been affected by EPO/the league in ways like this before so part of me wouldn’t even be surprised.

      • gtmanleg Says:

        Yeah, just too much corruption involved. I hope the league can eventually rise above it.

  2. gtmanleg Says:

    Any new news on whether we will get to play in the Champions League or not? I assume no news is good news.

    • alexaek Says:

      Id have to agree at the moment. Haven’t seen too much mention of CL lately on the various sites, more stories about transfers and the stadiums. I see that as a good thing, if there was bad news CL wise Im sure they would have been pumping out stories about it. Will keep you posted though!

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