Archive for September, 2017

AEK 2-2 Austria Wien

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , on September 28, 2017 by alexaek

Not the result we were all hoping for considering the form we were in coming into the game, but all things considered it isn’t all that bad either. Milan’s narrow 3-2 win against Rijeka today means we’re still somewhat comfortably in 2nd place, 2 points behind Milan and 3 ahead of Wien.

Without having seen the game, it seems as though there are a few important points to highlight from the game:

  • The team were clearly tired. Its understandable considering the effort they gave during the game against Olympiakos. The pace was almost relentless that game aside from a few spells where it died down so naturally not everyone might have recovered fully in time for this game. Its unfortunate, but hopefully it won’t be as big an issue when we play a European game following a non-derby league game.
  • We had our chances. Overall we had 23 attempts, 11 of which were on target. Sounds much like the game against Olympiakos in fact. Its nice to know we’re creating chances and its only a matter of time until we get better (or luckier) at converting them. It didn’t help that Pentz, the Wien keeper, had an amazing night in goal.
  • Ajdarevic failed to impress yet again. This might come as no surprise now but its becoming increasingly clearer that he doesn’t really have a spot in the team. I’m hoping once Kone and Giakoumakis are match fit that maybe we’ll see less of him. Its unfortunate but every time hes on the pitch he contributes very little to the team. From what I’ve heard it was essentially as though he wasn’t even on the pitch. AEK365 even went as far as giving him a 2 out of 10 rating. Ouch…
  • Our attacking core is looking great. Mantalos, Lazaros, Livaja, and Araujo seem to be linking up together very nicely and the number of quality chances they’ve created lately suggests just that. What I especially like is the fact that any one of them can be dangerous on any given day.

Unfortunately we did see some injury scares today with Cosic going down early and being forced to be subbed off. I haven’t read yet how serious it is yet but I’m hoping he wont be out for long. We’re already stretched thin with our centre backs and considering its only a matter of time until Vranjes gets a red in the league, I can only hope he wont be out for too long.

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AEK 3-2 Olympiakos!!!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Derby with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2017 by alexaek

What a game! This is what derbies are all about. If there was any doubt prior to this game as to whether this team could legitimately challenge for the Championship, I think its safe to say that the doubt is now gone.

This game had it all. A great atmosphere, some great goals from both teams, some drama on and off the pitch, and one of the greatest AEK comebacks in recent memory. The excitement leading up to the match was huge, and the game lived up to it all.

Its worth remembering that this game wasn’t just about beating the most hated team in Greece. Winning this game means we now sit 5 points ahead of Olympiakos, alone in first place with 13 points.

All the talk leading up to the game was on the demand for tickets and while we might not have sold out OAKA, the crowd definitely made its presence felt. I don’t know the exact numbers but it looked like the crowd was anywhere between 35,000 to 40,000 strong.

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Its safe to say that nothing compares to the atmosphere of a derby. Photo from AEK365.com

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Photo from AEK365.com

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I thought the banner that originals made for today’s game looked particularly sharp. Photo from AEK365.com

 

As for the game itself, well, it was eventful. It had its ups and downs, it was unpredictable, and it was a very real reminder that this AEK team should be taken seriously by anyone who comes up against it. We started really well with plenty of pressure on the Olympiakos defense. It was clear from the get go which team wanted to win this game more and we had numerous chances early on to start the scoring early.

All the wind was taken out of our sails though when Olympiakos scored against the run of play. I’ll give Marin credit, his finish on the goal was real nice, but our defense fell asleep on that one. They should have been far more aware of the danger, especially considering that Marin is not a player to take lightly despite how Olympiakos might be playing. The first goal for Olympiakos came fairly early so we still had plenty of time to get back in the game, but we lost much of the momentum we built up earlier in the first half after they scored. We had our chances again but I started feeling like half time would be a blessing in disguise in the sense that it would give AEK a chance to regroup.

Unfortunately, any regrouping that might have been done during the break was quickly undone as Olympiakos scored again, this time just after the second half started. Again it was a pretty nice finish, but I feel like our defense could have done better then as well. To be fair to Anestis, there wasn’t much he could have done on either goal and he did make a huge save to keep us in the game earlier on as well.

Down 2-0, a lot of teams would have struggled to find a way back into the game. This AEK team is different though. Thankfully, we have a coach who knows how to read a situation well. At the start of the second half, he subbed on Livaja for Klonaridis, a move which proved to be critical. Klonaridis struggled to make any impact for the most of the game but Livaja brought new life to the team almost immediately.

We struggled to find a way past Kapino but eventually the breakthrough came in 64th minute when a beautifully controlled pass by Araujo found Lazaros alone in the box. Lazaros, who was easily the best player on the pitch today, put the shot away with a one timer that would ultimately open the flood gates.

It wasn’t a smooth road to the end however as some disturbances outside the pitch resulted in the police releasing numerous canisters worth of tear gas into the air. The wind carried the tear gas into the stadium itself leading to discomfort among supporters and players. Now I might not know what exactly was going on outside the pitch, and its certainly disappointing that events like that had to take place at a game like the one we saw today. However, it should be pointed out that perhaps the police could have dealt with the situation in a more suitable way rather than releasing large amounts of tear gas with about 40,000 mostly peaceful supporters just meters away.

Naturally, the tear gas resulted in the game being halted in the hopes that the air would clear enough. Thankfully it did and we were able to continue without too much of a break. It still took a little while for our next breakthrough to come but eventually it did in the 80th minute with some more magic from Lazaros. This time, he put the ball in the net from a free kick that was even prettier than the one he score against Rijeka. It was especially far from the area but he managed to take it so perfectly that there was no chance for Kapino to track its movement. We’ve seen many great free kick takers at AEK in the past like Rivaldo and Scocco but I’m not sure we’ll see a free kick more spectacular than the one we see today for quite a while.

At 2-2, I was quite honestly relieved. A draw would have been a disappointment, but at least it would have kept Olympiakos at bay. The team had other ideas though and it was clear they were going all in for the win. There was no reason for them not to though as Olympiakos were clearly stunned by what had happened and werent quite sure how to react. The fact that their manager got expelled from the game might or might not have made things worse for them but their nightmare really became reality when Mantalos tapped in a Livaja cross just before the 90 minute mark. It wasn’t the prettiest goal compared to what we saw earlier in the game, but it got the job done and ultimately sealed the three points and a remarkable comeback. The look on the faces of the Olympiakos players said it all as did the delirium coming from the AEK supporters.

Theres been lots of promise and hype surrounding AEK this season and this game validated a lot of it. As many people have said, it was one of the best derbies of recent years, up there with the 4-4 Cup final. We saw beautiful goals, nice flowing football, a great crowd, and even the officiating was pretty good (though I feel like Olympiakos could have received a red card earlier in the game). The icing on the cake is the fact that this game has also turned the situation for Olympiakos from bad to worse. Their coach has officially been fired and their collective mental state could not be any worse now going into their game against Juventus.

For us AEK supporters however, this game might be a glimpse of whats to come for AEK this season. If all goes well, we’ll see much more of what we saw today and if thats the case, this might very well be the best season AEK has seen since the early 90s. With a new stadium on its way and progress being made on the construction every day, its pretty safe to say that these are good times to be an AEK supporter. The supporters in Nea Filadelfia certainly thought the same after the game today:

AEK 2-0 Lamia

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2017 by alexaek

After facing Lamia for the second time in less than a week, we managed to come away with yet another win with a slightly more convincing scoreline.

I’m just watching the game now and while it might not have been the best game we’ve played this season, it wasn’t an awful performance. More importantly, it gets us an important first win in the Cup against a team that is the toughest opponent in our group (with the other two being Kallithea and Apollon Larissa).

The game featured many of our starters but we also saw from the likes of Tsintotas, Vinicius, and Traustason, all of whom had pretty decent games. We also saw some familiar sides amongst the opposition as both Alex Dacol and Chrisantus were part of the squad and both made their way onto the pitch later in the game as subs.

Today’s win was an important one for sure but its safe to say that the team’s focus was probably directed to the upcoming game against Olympiakos before the final whistle was even blown today. Ticket sales are looking pretty good so far with around 15,000 tickets having already been sold. Add into the equation the 11,000 season tickets and thats already about 25,000 supporters with over three days to go until the game. At this rate I can see anywhere between 40,000 and 50,000 in attendance on Sunday.

AEK Alone in First

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2017 by alexaek

Lamia 0-1 AEK

A late (and somewhat fortunate) penalty turned out to be the difference for AEK after a game which saw many chances but few goals thanks to some great goalkeeping by Lamia’s Papadopoulos.

It wasn’t a great game but it did provide some entertainment as both sides had their chances to score. Lamia deserve credit for the game because despite being outplayed they still managed to look dangerous at times and were well disciplined defensively. While we did come away with the win, the game gives Jimenez something to think about as we play Lamia again two days from now in our first cup game of the season.

Anestis had a good game, dealing with whatever was thrown his way and our defense was also pretty solid in the centre though I feel like our left wing was left exposed a little too often. Offense wise, it wasn’t a consistent effort from the group. On the one hand, players like Mantalos, Araujo, Livaja, and Lazaros all had pretty good games while both Bakasetas and Klonaridis contributed very little to our attack. I would be a bit worried if I were Bakasetas or Klonaridis because its only a matter of time until Araujo and Livaja are considered for the starting position. On top of that, Giakoumakis should be returning from injury at some point which will create even more competition for spots in our offense.

Much of the talk in the press over the past couple of days revolved around the fact that our penalty should have only been a free kick, and there is definitely some truth to that. I’ll be the first to admit that I think it was a bad call, but if I remember correctly, Lamia’s Pito also should have received a red card so it wouldn’t exactly be right to claim that only AEK benefited from the officiating. Either way the result is what it is and because of it we now find ourselves in first place with 10 points. After four games we are still yet to concede a goal and its looking more and more like we’ll have a very good chance against Olympiakos this sunday. A win on sunday would put us five points clear of Olympiakos which would be an amazing position to be in this early in the season. Its worth noting that Olympiakos play Juventus in the Champions League just a few days after they play us so its safe to say that game might be on their minds which will hopefully affect how they prepare for us. Its also safe to say that their form is anything but stellar after a home loss in the champions league and two straight draws in the Championship.

Catching Up…

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2017 by alexaek

Its been a few weeks since my last post and as is often the case early on in a season, lots has happened. Luckily for us, things have been going pretty well so most of what I have to talk about is good news.

PAS Giannena 0-0 AEK

We’ve played three games since my last post, the first of which was a disappointing draw away against Giannena. I was only able to follow this game from the radio but in the end I think I was glad I didn’t watch it on TV. It wasn’t an awful game… after all, we didn’t lose. The game did leave a lot to be desired though with neither team managing to really make much happen. The good news though is that we weren’t really outplayed that much.

To be fair the game was only three days after our match against Club Brugge so I could see fatigue playing a part. On top of that there was probably a lot of pressure on the team to put in another good performance as they did against Brugge and perhaps they struggled to deal with those expectations. Its early in the season and we’re still figuring things out so I’m not too worried about the result.

AEK 4-0 Larissa

Our next game was a home game against Larissa, the third Superleague game of the season for us. The score was impressive but our performance was anything but. We seemed uninspired and the tempo of the match was more like what would be expected from a training session.

Thankfully we were rewarded with some goals, a couple of which were particularly impressive. I don’t know if its the fact that we were playing against a team that was clearly not going to be hard to beat, or if it was the empty stands for yet another game (I believe we have one more game with no fans before we are allowed to let them watch again), but there didn’t seem to be much urgency within the team. Thankfully though they managed to get the job done at least since we needed to make up for the points dropped from the previous match. Whats worth noticing with this game is that this is the first time since the 2007-2008 season that we have started the league and have not conceded in our first three games. The 2007-2008 season was also the season when we should have won the championship, so thats promising.

 

Rijeka 1-2 AEK

Our Europa League group stages campaign got off to an excellent start after 2-1 away win in Croatia. As the score suggests, the game wasn’t a blow out and both sides had there chances to add to their tallies. Ultimately though it sounds like AEK were the stronger team. One thing worth mentioning is Lazaros’ goal was a beauty. It sounds like Lazaros wasn’t even supposed to take the free kick that resulted in the goal but he stepped up and took it anyways, silencing anyone who was not expecting him to be able to score it.

Its still very early as there are another five  games to play but the talk is that AEK is looking likely to finish second in the group. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’d say our chances look pretty good. Having already won an away game and considering we’re in pretty good form, I’d say the home games against Austria Wien and Rijeka will quite likely result in wins and the away game to Wien is also one that could very well result in a win for AEK as well.

Looking Forward

We play tomorrow against Lamia in a game which I’d say we have a pretty good chance of winning. Doing so would put us comfortably in 1st place as Olympiakos only managed a 1-1 draw against Tripolis today (in their own stadium!) so a win would see us 1st on 10 points, two ahead of Olympiakos and PAOK. We’ll certainly face a boost as though we are playing “away” against Lamia, the game will be played in Athens and AEK supporters will be allowed in the stands effectively making it a home game for AEK. This will be the first time this season that our players have played against our fans so I’m sure its something the team is looking forward to.

Personnel Changes

We have seen some personnel changes both on and off the pitch since my last post. I’ll start with the behind the scenes chances: Majstorovic has left his post as director to take up a similar role with Wolverhampton. It sounds like Majstorovic and the team parted ways under good terms and its worth noting that I believe Majstorovic waited until his contract with AEK was over before he switched to a different team. Its a good opportunity for him so I don’t blame him for taking it, but its also a good opportunity for us since it means a place has opened up for Limberopoulos again. I’m glad to see Limbe back with AEK again since hes the kind of person who everyone expects. Its a good time for him to be at AEK, so hopefully his second stint in the position brings some memorable success.

We also saw some more changes on the pitch was. Firstly, Almeida has left the team and joined Hajduk Split. I’m glad he found another team since he definitely still has something to offer, but I dont think AEK or even Almeida himself would have been happy with his output while with us. Its a good move from the team since it frees up some space and budget which means the long awaited news we’ve wanted to hear all summer could become reality. Thats right, Araujo has rejoined AEK on a year long loan from Las Palmas. I know AEK wanted to sign him outright rather than keep him on another loan, but its a great move regardless as he was clearly a good fit for AEK under Jimenez. He got off to a great start scoring in his first game back with the club and while he hasn’t played as a starter yet, its only a matter of time until he is fully integrated back into the team again.