Archive for the Basketball Category

AEK 3-1 Kerkyra

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2017 by alexaek

After another weekend of wins for Oly, PAOK, and Atromitos, the pressure was on AEK again today to get a win. Sure enough, they delivered yet again and for another week remain on top. Its still a fragile lead, with only one point separating us and Oly, but as long as we keep getting results I can’t complain.

Today’s match went as expected against second to last placed Kerkyra, although Kerkyra definitely didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for after their keeper scored an own goal to open the scoring for AEK. It all happened in the 11th minute when Lazaros had two chances to finish from point blank range but it was instead the keeper who ended up getting the ball into the back of the net.

Kone continued the scoring, scoring his first goal with AEK in over ten years. And what a goal it was; a poor clearance by Kerkyra landed right at Kone’s chest who with some great control and a beautiful finish lobbed the ball right out of the keeper’s reach and into the net.

Araujo finished off the scoring for AEK after yet another poor clearance by Kerkyra’s defense ultimately landed at the Argentinian’s feet. Araujo, showing sings of what we came to expect of him last year, finished it beautifully with a one timer that left the keeper with no chance.

Kerkyra managed to pull one back but it was too little too late for them. The penalty that lead to their goal was questionable at best, but it was the only downside of what was another convincing performance by AEK.

Whats most impressive for me about our recent performances is that we’re consistently getting results without Mantalos and Johansson. Players like Klonaridis and Kone who earlier in the season weren’t showing as much promise as we expected are now proving to have rather considerable roles in the team. Even Araujo, who had a slow start to his season this year, is starting to find himself on the scoresheet more and more often. Its a good time for the team to find some form since it will only get tougher from this point on as the pressure increases. The only thing I’m weary about at this point is that with the Christmas break fast approaching, its a very real possibility that the break might affect our momentum. Of course, it might not affect us at all, but its always a risk when you’re away from the game for a while.

 

Today’s result wasn’t the only news for our football team today. Earlier in the day, the draws took place for who we would face in the Europa League Round of 32 and to be honest, I feel like it could definitely be worse. The luck of the draw paired us with Dynamo Kiev, Ukranian runners up last season. I’m not saying it will be an easy two matches by any stretch, but we definitely have more of a chance at getting a favourable result against them than say Atletico Madrid or Arsenal for example (even if both of those teams aren’t in great form in their respective leagues).

 

One last piece of AEK news worth mentioning comes from our basketball game yesterday. We played Olympiakos and considering our recent league form, I don’t think anybody was realistically expecting much of a result. Instead, what happened was something that hasn’t happened in 13 years: we won! 13 years since the last time we beat Olympiakos in Basketball, we beat them again with a score of 66-62. It was a tight game, and towards the end the lead was fluctuating between the two sides quite a bit.

Its been an interesting season for our basketball club. We’re in mediocre form (and thats being generous) in the league and we’re even worse off in European play, yet we’ve beat PAO and Oly within the span of about a month. Strange times indeed, but hopefully our recent switch of coaches will help after we hired Dragan Sakota as our coach for the third time in his career.

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Catching Up

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on August 14, 2017 by alexaek

Its been quite a while since my last post and quite a bit has happened since then so I’ll go through a recap of the major stories below.

CSKA Eliminate AEK from Champions League

So our much anticipated return to the Champions League, albeit in the qualifying rounds, was a disappointment. Everyone expected CSKA to be a tough team to come up against and truth be told they were the stronger team. Having said that, a better result was definitely possible but we ultimately came up short losing 2-0 in Athens and 1-0 in Moscow. Its hard to say whether we were more let down by our goaltending and defending, or by our lack of offense. A lot of the blame definitely falls on our defense and goaltending due to the similar nature of all three goals. I understand letting one corner slip in, but when all three goals conceded come from corners, something clearly isn’t right. The team should have learned from the first but it seemed like they didn’t.

I’m hoping our defending of corners was just something momentary that affected us during those two CSKA games because if not, I could see a lot of teams targeting us on set plays if it clearly becomes a weakness. It didn’t help over the two CSKA games that our offense was lacking. We created a few chances during the second leg, after we had already gone down by two goals, but we struggled to make any meaningful progress into CSKA territory during the first leg. It wasn’t so much that we couldn’t finish, but rather that we simply couldn’t even create any worthwhile chances.

I’m not convinced Jimenez went with the best lineup for the first match either. Giakoumakis wasn’t even included as a sub, and I feel like we would have been better off going forward if either Patito or Klonaridis had been in the starting lineup.

 

Club Brugge Next European Opponent for AEK

Our next European match will be a Europa League qualifier against Belgian side Club Brugge. Brugge, similarly to CSKA, have gotten off to a promising start in their league so they seem to be in good form. I feel like a positive result is definitely possible, but we will have to play better than we did against CSKA. I know we aren’t a powerhouse, but I feel like the team let their guard down in those two games against CSKA, something which we really can’t afford to do again. I’m sure we’ll be more weary of corners this time around but its our offense that worries most. The fact that we didn’t score a single goal against CSKA is a concern for me since this team has the ability to do better. I think a lot of our success will come from simply calming things down and taking more control of the game. Brugge have scored nine goals in their first three league games so we clearly can’t afford to let them get too comfortable.

Possible Araujo Return

There has been a lot of talk lately in Spain and Greece regarding the situation with Araujo at Las Palmas. He has been left out of the lineup for the majority of their games recently and it seems like he is increasingly looking to get away again. At one point, he even “liked” a post on instagram asking him to come back to AEK and its clear he still looks at AEK fondly. I don’t know what kind of move it would be if he were to come back with regards to it being a transfer (still unlikely we can afford that) or as another loan. All I know at this point is that we can really use someone like him to boost our attack. With some European games coming up as well, it would be a good chance for him to showcase himself to a wider audience.

Stadium Progress

There was a comment on last post about the team acquiring the final license needed to start construction of the stadium. Shortly after that the team hosted a festival in the grounds of the where the stadium will be built with live music and a blessing of the land. It looked like an amazing atmosphere, one filled with happiness and celebration, the kind of thing we normally see when we win a cup.

I’ll admit that I was excited since it was so hard not to be. But, I was still a bit hesitant. I mean theres been so many promises over the years that its hard to really believe it might some day be happening. Well, if I had any doubt before, its safe to say that it is all but gone. The two videos below show some of the construction progress that has been taking place and it genuinely looks like we might see the foundations of a stadium show up their soon. To think that we will one day within the next few years finally have our own stadium is, while hard to believe, such an amazing feeling. Not only will we have our own stadium but we will have the stadium which will be hands down the most impressive venue in Greek sports. Simply just browsing through the comments on various sports sites and it is clear that even PAO and Olympiakos fans are at least a little bit jealous of what will some day be our new home.

 

Basketball Team Making Progress

It had been a fairly quiet off season for our basketball team these past few months, something which had me a bit worried. However over the past few weeks, Aggelopoulos has made some significant signings which will bolster our squad significantly, notably the singings of Manny Harris and Delroy James, two players with significant experience in American and European basketball. We also signed promising 19 year old Giannis Agravanis, one of the more highly regarded talents for the Greece youth system. Its still early and I’m expecting a couple more singings, but it seems like we might have a competitive team this season. Its hard to say whether they will be significantly stronger than last season’s roster, but I feel like there will at least a bit of an improvement.

AEK 1-0 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2017 by alexaek

We managed to come away with the three points at the last minute yesterday against PAO, courtesy of a late goal from Lazaros against his former club. The win follows our disappointing home 0-1 home loss to Panionios, a performance which saw us create very few noteworthy chances.

Luckily we got the better result yesterday against PAO, a result which puts us in first place in the playoffs courtesy of PAOK’s 1-0 win against Panionios. It wasn’t a great performance by any means, especially considering we were playing against a depleted PAO squad, but it definitely puts us in a good spot going into the fourth round.

Thankfully we managed to create some chances this game with Mantalos coming close on a header. Arguably the biggest chance though came when Almeida was faced with a rather routine tap into a practically empty net. Unfortunately though he came up short and ended up sending the ball over the cross bar, missing a chance that no professional forward should ever realistically miss.

The game seemed to be heading to a 0-0 draw before Lazaros took a shot from distance that managed to sneak its way into the net. It was the kind of goal that we’ve come to expect from him, a shot from distance with enough power that it manages one way or another to find its way into the net, and I must say that its nice to see him go for it. I’ve always felt that it doesn’t hurt to take shots if you know you have a good foot: maybe it goes in, maybe it goes out for a corner, or maybe you get a helpful rebound, either way a lot of good can come of it.

It wasn’t all good news this weekend though as AEK’s basketball team faced PAO for game four of the Basket league playoffs. After winning a historic match against PAO two games earlier, we ended up falling short last week in game three. All was not lost though as game four was to be played in front of our supporters again and I felt like we had a chance to even the series for a second time. It was not meant to be however as not only did we lose, but we lost in a huge way with a final score of 67-105 showing just how big the difference was between the two sides. Our defense was awful and practically non-existent at times and our offense looked extremely uninspired. It was too bad considering the team gave us so much hope with that win last weekend.

Its the end of the season again for us, but I think this past season really does set us up well for the next one. We had a great run in Europe and we looked good a lot of the times against PAO and Olympiakos. We clearly aren’t where we want to be yet to challenge for a European final or the Championship, but the foundations are there. Unfortunately though, a lot of work still needs to be done and money still needs to be spent. Its promising though and if management is keen on building upon what they have, as they seem to be, we have reason to optimistic about what lies ahead.

A Return to Better Days

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Greek Cup, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2017 by alexaek

If you’re reading this, you probably noticed that I never wrote anything about our 2-1 loss to PAOK in the Cup final. Really it came down to not wanting to write anything since that game was a disaster from before kickoff. It started with the terrible organization, with the game almost being cancelled since the seats didn’t have numbers on them. Then came the fighting between “supporters” within the stadium as well as outside of it. Of course we had the game itself, which was a disappointment on every level thanks to our awful performance and the offside game winner for PAOK.

Overall, not the kind of final I was hoping for. Certainly not the kind of final that will be remembered fondly throughout Greece by fans of the sport aside aside from the PAOK fans.

Thankfully, we were able to somewhat put all that behind us with not one great result, but two. It started with our basketball team managing, after nine years, to finally beat PAO. Even better, the win tied up our semi-final series with them at one game apiece. It was a tight game until the end, as many of our derbies have been this season, but a huge win regardless which gives us enormous momentum heading into the third game. The win only ties the series and we still have plenty of work to do, but to finally get past this hurtle and win a game against our cross town rivals shows that its definitely possible. Will it be enough to get us to the finals? Well I hate to say that PAO are still favourites but at this point nothing is guaranteed anymore.

The day only got better from that point on as we headed north to take on PAOK for the first round of the playoffs. We clearly came out seeking to make a statement after the loss to PAOK in the cup and for the majority of the first half we were easily the stronger team. As the commentator on the radio put it at one point, AEK seemed like the home team as we outplayed PAOK throughout the pitch. The breakthrough came early on as Didac, who had a great game along with most of our defense, latched on to a perfect ball from Mantalos and neatly tucked in the finish. His goal would prove to the deciding factor as neither side would find a way to score from then on, but there were certainly chances.

The game was a great way to put everything from the cup behind us as not only does it get us a huge three points away in Toumba, but it puts us first in the playoff table after Panionios and PAO tied earlier in the day (though Panionios were unfortunate not to come away with the win). Its still early but to already find ourselves in first after starting with fewer points than PAOK and PAO is the best outcome we could have hoped for after the first round of playoffs. Our next match is at home against Panionios, a game I feel like we should comfortably take, while PAO host PAOK in Athens. I could personally see that game going either way as PAO will be seeking to get some revenge of their own after being knocked out of the cup while PAOK will be looking to recover lost ground after losing, not to mention they’ll also be out to prove that they were legitimately the better team against PAO in the cup semi-finals.

 

AEK 2-3 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , on April 4, 2017 by alexaek

Well I guess all good things must eventually come to an end. After going undefeated for so long with Jimenez as coach, we finally faced our first defeat in months after a heartbreaking loss to PAO.

I was away for the weekend so I didn’t get the chance to watch the game live, but I did record it so when I get the chance I’ll try to catch a bit of it. From the sounds of it though, it seemed like it was quite the entertaining match. The result was definitely not what I had hoped for and to be honest, not what I was expecting. Unfortunately though, you never know what to expect when getting back to action after long international breaks. These breaks often seem to come at a terrible time, as they did for us these past two weeks when we seemed to have some momentum. I was afraid we’d come back a little hesitant and it seems like we did.

Thankfully, we’re still in a playoff spot but had we managed to hold on to the draw rather than concede in the last minute, we would have been only two points off of PAO. Our schedule from this point on though is, in theory, a comfortable one so I imagine we’ll manage to stay in fifth until the end of the season.

I won’t comment much on the game since I didn’t see it, but I will mention that it looked like, once again, our supporters put on quite the show. Although I will say I was a bit disappointed by the size of the crowd.

One final word though, with regards to some interesting news out of Greece last week. It was announced that, for the first time since the playoff format was setup in the Superleague, next season’s champion will also take part in the playoffs. I was never a big fan of the playoff format but having 1st through 5th play for the title at least makes a lot more sense, in addition to hopefully making the playoffs a whole lot more interesting in seasons to come.

On a basketball related note, today was the anniversary of our famous win against Slavia, when our basketball club became the first Greek side to win a European trophy. That famous result of course happened in 1968, and to see some pictures of the team honouring the event, check out this link.

AEK 2-0 Asteras Tripolis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2017 by alexaek

Good start for Jimenez

As I mentioned in my last post, rumours were floating around saying that Manolo Jimenez was on his way to Athens for his second stint in charge of AEK. The next day, those rumours turned out to be true as Jimenez signed a contract which will keep him with the team until at least the end of the season.

Thankfully for both Jimenez himself as well as the team, the Spaniard’s first game in charge ended with a comfortable 2-0 win over a team that has given us a hard time these past couple seasons. Goals from both Pekhart and Mantalos (both now have five goals this season) were enough to seal the win though by all accounts it sounds like it was a solid team effort all around. Even players like Simoes and Johansson, players who have been having mediocre seasons compared to what we’ve come to expect of them, turned up and played a phenomenal game. In fact, Johansson ended up with the MVP award for the game, something which I pretty much felt he deserved every game last season compared to the current season.

I’m not sure if its just because of the change, or if Jimenez has already managed to bring some positive change to the team. I feel like theres definitely something about Jimenez that can really give the club a boost for the rest of the season: hes passionate, he knows the team, and he has some solid experience. On top of that, I feel like he would be a much more motivating figure in the dressing room than someone like Ketsbaia was.

Apologies in advance for the poor quality highlights, they were all I could find on YouTube from the game.

Comfortable win for basketball team as well

Our basketball team played earlier in the weekend against Apollonas Patras and came away from the game with a convincing 88-69 win. As has been the case for most of the season, the win means we still sit comfortably in third, one point behind PAO and two behind Olympiakos.

Busy Day for AEK

Posted in AEK, Basketball, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2017 by alexaek

Bad news first…

We played a league game today against Panaitolikos on a pitch that resembled a swamp more than anything else. How we were allowed to play on that pitch when the ball barely rolled at all is beyond me, but the game went ahead regardless.

The final result? A 3-2 loss. Surprised? I’m not. Its embarrassing that its gotten to the point where I half expect us to lose. And not without reason either. We haven’t won an away game since the 10th of October, when we beat Larissa 2-1. We haven’t even won a home game since the 10th of December, more than a month ago…

I didn’t watch the match and I’m not exactly upset that I didn’t. From what I read it sounded as though Barkas made some tragic mistakes after playing the game of his life on Sunday. Some other things worth noting from the game include the fact that Almeida finally scored again and that two of the goals scored for Panaitolikos were scored by our former player, Grigoris Makos.

What was probably more noteworthy from the game was what happened afterwards, when Morais announced at his press conference that he was leaving the team. Thats right, another coach gone.

His departure was quickly confirmed by the club a little while after, around the same time that rumours began circulating that Manolo Jimenez was ready to take over. Jimenez is, of course, the same coach who was in charge when we won the Cup a few years ago.

How do I feel about all of this? Well of course it isn’t confirmed, but at this point I’m kind of indifferent. I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t expect much from the club this year so if Jimenez is the guy who can miraculously turn things around, great. If not, I’m sure things can’t be any worse than they are now.

Time for some good news.

We played against Partizan for the final match of the Basketball Champions League group stages today. Our qualification to the next round was guaranteed before the match started, but a win against Partizan would have cemented 2nd place for us. Key three pointers by players such as Ukic (yet again) ensured that we left Belgrade with the win and 2nd place clinched. 69-65 was the final score which meant that though we had a similar record to a few other clubs in the group, we clinched second due to a better record among those teams tied for second.

What happens from this point on all depends on who we face in the next rounds, meaning clinching 2nd was all the more important as it allows us to face an easier opponent. I’m not sure yet who we might possibly face but I would say that aside from a few teams, there isn’t anybody who we couldn’t be competitive against. I can’t say how far we’ll make it in the tournament, but I feel pretty good about our chances of at least making it to one more round. From then on, who knows. All I know is that after all this time, it feels great to see an AEK basketball team that is competitive in Europe once again.