Archive for the Champions League Category

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 Set To Face CSKA

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Jerseys with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2017 by alexaek

The day many of us have been awaiting patiently (more likely rather impatiently) has finally arrived. In less than 24 hours from the publishing of this post, AEK will have finally played a Champions League game, the first in essentially a decade.

Our opponent for this 3rd qualifying round match is the Moscow based club CSKA. Most sources are understandably listing CSKA as the favourites, not least because their season has already been underway. AEK, on the other hand, have yet to play a competitive match with many of our new singings but that doesn’t worry me all that much. We’re expected to have a good crowd supporting the team in OAKA as ticket sales have been pretty steady over the past week and the team will definitely have enough motivation to put in a good performance. In fact I’ve just read that 15,000 tickets have been sold, plus the approximately 7,000 season tickets. That puts us at a crowd of around 21,000 though that will surely increase more throughout the day tomorrow.

AEK365 is reporting that Anestis will get the start in nets after Barkas sustained a rather serious injury that could see him sidelined for up to three months. In front of Anestis we can expect to see Bakakis, Chygrynskiy, Vranjes, and Lopes. Simoes will likely be paired with either Johansson or Galanopoulos with Livaja a little further up the pitch. Completing our attack will be Mantalos and Lazaros with Klonaridis expected to be up front if he is match fit.

Its not a bad lineup with some pretty good Greek representation. Its reassuring to see that Jimenez isn’t afraid to play Greeks when they deserve the spot since those are more often than not the players that the club will be built around.

Tomorrow’s match will take place at 8:30 PM Athens time which is 1:30 PM New York time or 3:30 AM Sydney time (on the 26th of July). I can’t really say what to expect from CSKA as I’m not at all familiar with the club, but they did just come off a 3-1 loss in the league against Lokomotiv Moscow. Having said that, they’re still undoubtedly a strong side but a positive result for AEK in Athens is more than possible. Its supposed to be a warm afternoon in Athens with a high of 32°C which could play in our favour as Moscow seems to be averaging mid to high 20s around this time of year. 

I’m not certain which kits we’ll be wearing but they’ll definitely be different than last season’s kits as new kits were released earlier in July. The First kit is similar to last year’s striped one, but with a slightly different style. Its not radically different but I still quite like it:

Its also possible we could wear our Third kit, one which I must say is quite gorgeous. I’m not convinced that it works as a jersey really simply because the details get lost when watching in the stands or on TV and it ends up looking like a plain black training kit. As something that I would want to purchase and wear myself though, it is stunning. Maybe a little more yellow around the edge of the Dikefalo would have helped make everything stand out a little more though:

Its an exciting day tomorrow and while I’m disappointed that I’ll have to be at work, I’ll definitely try to follow it as much as possible. Fingers crossed one of the Greek TV channels I have on TV will also be showing it so I can watch it after work. Either way theres a lot to look forward to and if we can come away with a positive result tomorrow, anything will be possible. Forza AEKara!

Transfers So Far

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2017 by alexaek

With the team having recently arrived in Poland for pre-season training, there have already been moves taken with the hopes of strengthening the squad for our return to the Champions League.

In my opinion the biggest move we’ve made so far was the re-singing of Jimenez. There was some uncertainty about a month or so ago regarding whether we’d hold onto Jimenez for at least another season but the team has cleared that up after a new deal was agreed. As far as I’m concerned this is exactly what we could have hoped for. We saw how quickly he managed to turn the team around last season after he re-joined us, I can only imagine what he could do with a full pre-season as well. It has been far too long since we had a serious and experienced coach for a pre-season so having him here from the start will really see us start in the right direction if we hope to progress at all in the Champions League.

As far as players are concerned, we have made a few singings so far with the first notable singing being that of Helder Lopes. The Portuguese left-back joins us from Las Palmas, the same Las Palmas which currently owns the rights to Sergio Araujo. Haven’t personally seen much of him so I can’t really comment on what he brings to the team, but we’ve had pretty decent luck lately with Portuguese players like Barbosa and Simoes so I can only hope that trend continues with Lopes.

 

We’ve also officially completed the deal to bring over Giakoumakis from Cretan club Platanias. A deal had already been agreed with the players last season but the deal was only able to be finalized this pre-season.  Hes a very promising player who is coming off a couple strong seasons with Platanias. Considering Aravidis was released from the club not too long ago, its a nice to see us strengthen our attack with another promising young Greek.

 

Arguably the biggest singing for the club this season so far though has been the re-signing of Klonaridis. Klonaridis, who became the first player to go from AEK, to PAO, and back to AEK, was picked up for a bargain of a price at a reported 800,000 Euros. Not bad for a player who has already proven himself in this league. Don’t get me wrong, hes not the greatest Greek to wear our jersey by any means, but especially for the price, hes a great addition to the club. He genuinely seems pretty excited to be back at AEK to which I like to see and I have a feeling he could play a big part in any success we have this season.

In addition to our recent singings, we’ve seen a few players released with the most recent being Vargas and Kolovetsios. Its unfortunate to see them both leave as they both brought a lot to the club. Kolovetsios had been with us for a few years by now and had been a great member of the club, causing very few issues along the way. He was always ready to be called upon when needed and though we have solidified our depth in the centre-back position, its too bad we couldn’t find a place for him in the team. Having said that, it was pretty clear his playing time would be limited this season and he still has many years ahead of him so from his point of view this was the right thing to do. On the right club, he could easily become a key player.

Vargas was also an unfortunate loss for us. I’m not sure why exactly his playing time dropped so much under Jimenez, if it was simply a matter of him not fitting the system or if there was something else behind the scenes, I couldn’t say. What I can say though is that I’ll never forget the many moments these past two seasons where he came up big when we needed it. Afterall, how can we forget the player who scored the game winner in our home derbies against PAO, PAOK, and Olympiakos all in one season.

AEK 3-0 Platanias

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Champions League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2017 by alexaek

With relative ease we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals of the Cup. Can we go all the way from this point on? I see absolutely no reason why we can’t with the form we’re seeing at the moment.

Going into the game I was very slightly worried, if only for the fact that the 0-0 draw in the previous game in Crete left us little breathing room if we failed to score early. Platanias afterall only stand one point behind us in the league and have proven time and time again that they can get results against bigger clubs.

Any fears I might have had though we’re quickly put to rest after we got off to a pretty good start, with Lazaros scoring the penalty that resulted from Mantalos being taken down in the box by Platanias’ Yaya Banana. That same play also resulted in a red card for Platanias which certainly only made things easier from that point on.

Oh, and speaking of penalties and red cards, the olympiakos press has been going on all night about how we got “helped” by the refs through the calls… Regardless of whether the penalty was the right call or not, the fact that their press has been going on about this, from a game they weren’t even involved in, is something else. Maybe they’re using it to get their supporters more fired up in case they play us once again in the Cup? Can’t say I mind, it would make any meetings between us in the Cup that much more enjoyable. I still find it incredible that supporters of that team can have the nerve to complain about another team receiving a call like that from a ref…

Back to our game though: I think its safe to say that after the first goal and the red card for Platanias, pretty much anyone following the game would think that the win was pretty much guaranteed for AEK at that point. Rightfully so too, as we continued to score with goals from Araujo (his third in the cup so far) and a beautifully taken finish by Johansson.

Its also safe to say that with a little more luck, the score could have easily ended around 5-0 as we hit the post and had a number of excellent chances missed throughout the game. Regardless, its the win that counts, an important win that books us a place in the semi-finals of a Cup which I genuinely believe our players want to win. It helps too having a coach who has won this cup before and knows how good it would feel to raise it again.

Its obviously too early to tell who we’ll face in the next round but Panathinaikos will definitely be there. I’m pretty confident PAOK will make it to the next round too, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the Atromitos-Olympiakos game. Its very possible we could end up seeing Atromitos joining us in the semi-finals considering Olympiakos’ recent form in Greece.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news today as Chyrgrynskiy had to be subbed off after just a few minutes into the game for what seemed like an arm injury. I’m not sure how bad it is at this point but I hope it doesn’t keep him out for too long.

 

As great as our football team has been lately, our basketball team also deserves some credit after not only beating PAOK over the weekend, but also beating Monaco yesterday in the Champions League round of 16. It was only a one point win, but its definitely a promising result going into the return leg in France. Its also promising to keep in mind that there will be at least 500 AEK supporters present in the rather small arena in Monaco, not to mention the number of Marseille supporters who will also make the trip to support AEK.

AEK 0-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Derby, Draw, Europa League, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2016 by alexaek

Very unfortunate result for us, and one that we perhaps didn’t deserve since we were the only team who showed up today looking for a win. But thats football sometimes. I expected a win, if only for the fact that we’ve won all our derbies at OAKA until now this season, but fatigue once again got the better of us.

We tried, we really did. Especially towards the end we were really piling on the pressure but there was little our players could do. A better rested squad would have easily found a way to get a result but though our intentions were there today, the team just couldn’t physically put in the effort required.

Officiating was back to its usual Greek standards with a clear penalty on Simoes not called midway through the first half. Had the call been given and the penalty converted, it would have been a different game altogether since PAOK were only able to get forward on counter attacks and struggled to take control of the game otherwise.

We’ve always known PAOK was a dirty team on the pitch, especially since the days of Garcia, but today was some of the worst playing from PAOK that I’ve seen in a while. Dirty tackle after dirty tackle, simply with the aim of breaking any rhythm we could get going. It all caught up to them after Tzavellas took down Aravidis on a clear breakaway and got sent off, but our advantage was short lived after Pekhart recieved his second yellow early in the second period. Even when we were playing with a man up though, we couldn’t create all that much.

We had our chances to go ahead, two of them from Aravidis (one of his chances  managed to hit the cross bar), and a few other half chances but for the most part there was little reward for all the effort the team put in. Our supporters appreciated the performance nonetheless, applauding the players at the end of the match, but it was too bad we couldn’t get the three points and give us one last chance to qualify for Champions League play next season. Unfortunately though, as it stands the best we could hope for is making it to the Europea League, and even that would only be after qualifying for the group stages.

As far as Europa League is concerned, the draw for the qualifying rounds take place on the 15th of July and it is then when we will learn who we’ll face. We’ll be placed in the 3rd qualifying round and from then, if I understand correctly, we’ll play in the playoff round for the group stages. It won’t be easy as some of our possible opponents include teams such as Alkmaar, Lille, St.Ettienne, West Ham, Herta, Sassuolo, and Dinamo Minsk, among others. Having said that, I’m pretty confident that with some quality singings this summer, we can make it to the group stages. With our current squad though, as well as they’ve done this season, I really can’t see having too easy a time making it through to the playoff round.

 

It wasn’t all bad news this weekend as our basketball club finally managed to end the series with Aris winning the 4th game 89-81 and in doing so managed to clinch 3rd place. It was a shame we couldn’t beat Aris during the regular season since we’re clearly level with them but the team did well to get it done in the playoffs. They might not yet be at the level of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, but we’re clearly on the right track. I still don’t think we’ll be able to win the championship any time soon, but it would definitely be nice if we could get a win or two against Olympiakos or PAO next season to give us at least a bit of hope that we may one day see a team like the ones we saw in the past.

If you have some time on your hands, you can catch the whole match below. It was a pretty good game and Herston’s performance in particular was outstanding. I’d say it was easily the best we’ve seen from him all season. Sakota also had a good game and I think he’s done a good job of proving that he should be in the squad next season.

 

PS: For some extra commentary on today’s match, check out this link.

This is it!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Greek Football, Greek National Team with tags , , , , , , on May 19, 2012 by alexaek

After our 2-0* win against PAOK earlier in the week (it feels like ages since we beat them), its come down to a match-up between PAO and AEK to  decide who will be Greece’s second team to attempt to make their mark in the Champions League. Thanks to Chelsea’s win against Bayern in the final today, whichever team goes on to win the playoffs will be placed in the stronger group for qualifying matches and will play against lower seeded teams (definitely good news!).

I really think we have a chance of getting the win tomorrow, though it will not be easy (it never is really). PAO will want this just as much as us, and their supporters will be there. Not sure what to expect for this one, but Im sure we’ll be going all out, its do or die now, nothing but a win will be good enough and we have nothing to lose. PAO, on the other hand, might very well be playing for the draw (we’ve seen them do this in the past), so lets see what happens.

*Libe and Leo were our goal scorers for the match. This was Libe’s last home game for us, sadly, and Dellas’ as well.

Two legendary players for AEK (and Greece). Respected the shirt, always gave the most they could, rarely, if ever, caused any trouble. Players that AEK and Greek football will miss. Players that we dont see as often these days, yet players that our league so desperately needs.

And as much as I love Dellas, I will miss Libe more than I’ll ever miss another AEK player. He’s been with AEK through the good and bad times, never complained, always accepted lower wages, always gave all he had to offer on the pitch. Even at 36 years old this season, he was still scoring goals (and some beautiful ones indeed). Its not often that you find a player who is so respected by AEK and PAO fans, and I certainly wont be surprised to see a standing ovation by the PAO supporters tomorrow. And I also wont be surprised to see Libe score a goal or two tomorrow as well!

A Fine Weekend To Be AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, football, Greek Cup, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League, Non-AEK Football/Soccer, Soccer, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2011 by alexaek

So, just a little over a week after we won our first Cup in so many years (despite the rather depressing events which followed after the match), us AEK fans were treated to yet another pleasing weekend. This time, however, the attention was not only on our football team, but also our Handball guys, a group of players who have fought hard and gave everything they had to offer to the club for the past three years. Saturday afternoon, our players took on PAOK in Thesaloniki, a match which was a must win if they wanted to claim the Championship. And, as is the norm recently, AEK emerged victorious over our rivals from the North. That’s right folks, only six years after our handball club was formed, we, for the first time in our history, are champions of Greece!

I went to wait for the players last night in Nea Filadelfia along with thousands of other AEK supporters and though the bus’ arrival was delayed by AEK fans from all over Greece (almost literally, as the bus had to make numerous stops on its way down so supporters could congratulate the players), the players received a reception that only true Champions deserve! It wasn’t until about 2:30 in the morning that the bus arrived in Filadelfia, along with a caravan of motorcycles and flares from fans who greeted the bus at the tolls outside Athens, but the celebrations were phenomenal. The entire street outside the offices of the Amateur division of AEK which runs the handball club was blocked off by bon fires and thousands of AEK fans who sang non stop for the entire hour or so that I was there after the bus arrived (and they were still singing when I left at 3:30) while the players were on the balcony of the offices with the trophy, joining in the celebrations as well. And I’ll tell everyone reading this post one thing: These players on our handball teams are true AEK supporters, people who love the club as much as we do! I hope they, along with us, will always remember this day, as it was a true celebration of what it means to be AEK!

As for the match itself, it was close, very close. We managed to take a firm lead quite early in the game thanks to some fantastic attacking, however PAOK slowly managed to cut back the lead as the match progressed. Towards the end, however, PAOK actually managed to take the lead, and with only 15 seconds left, they were leading 22-21. However, AEK, who refused to give up, managed to tie the game up at 22-22- with only seven seconds left before the one and only Christoforos Bakaoukas scored the game winning goal to clinch the Championship! I honestly can’t think of a better way to win the championship than by beating PAOK in their own home in such a way. If you watch the video below, you even see the PAOK fans calling their players champions as they were so sure the win was theirs.

So, on to football. We started the game (at the lovely time of 9:45 on a Sunday night) knowing PAOK had beaten PAO 2-1 in Toumba, meaning a win for us would bring us to first place in the playoffs. I’m not sure if this was what the players were thinking, or maybe they were inspired by their cup win last weekend, but they came out strong and seemed intent on showing no mercy to the scum team from Volos. Lovely passing football and complete control of the match was all we saw from AEK from the first 10 minutes or so, with Leonardo playing a very active role in the match from early on. For the most part, our positioning was superb and the players were really gelling well together, with Leonardo forcing the ball into the box with his runs and Michel distributing superbly.

As the game progressed the tempo did drop slightly, though Olympiakos Volou rarely managed to gain much of an upperhand. Having said that, and despite the pressure we were applying, we still urgently needed a goal. Sure, we were playing some attractive football, and the players were clearly doing things right, but in front of the net we were simply not good enough for much of the match. The fact that our only goal of the match came from a penalty is an obvious indicator of this. However, I feel its too early to worry. We were creating chances, we came very close on a number of times and even hit the cross bar on one occasion, and with a bit more confidence and decisiveness in front of goal, we shouldn’t have as much of a hard time scoring in our upcoming matches.

And while I’m on the topic of scoring (or lack of), I feel obliged to bring up a certain player by the name of Nabil Baha. USELESS. He could hardly run after the first half, was clearly not match fit (or possibly just lazy), and missed two clear goalscoring opportunities (opportunities which Blanco would have had no problem scoring). I thank Baha for his goal in the Cup final, but the guy cannot play for us anymore. What Jimenez sees in him I will never know, but I really hope to see Blanco start the next match instead of him.

As for the rest of our players, a handful in my opinion deserve much credit. Dellas, Manolas, Georgeas, Michel, and Diop all played vital roles in our win today. Dellas brings experience to our team that very few players could provide while Manolas alongside him at centre back was simply solid in defending. Georgeas, though he may have been slightly sloppy at times, provided another dimension to our play down the right flank and, as always, defended with passion. Diop was simply solid at the back, providing cover for our defenders and midfielders. Also may have been sloppy and careless at times, but he still manages to hold on to the ball well, win it back when we lose it, and is always moving, always looking to do something, whether it be winning the ball back or providing cover for a player. Michel also provided a vital role today as his ball distribution was by far the best of anyone else today. He may not have played many fancy defense ripping through balls like Rivaldo, but his passes were always calculated and well placed.

Unfortunately, Libe was forced to leave the match as he picked up an injury. I have no idea at the moment how serious it is, or if he will be ready for the next match, however I truly hope we will be match fit by next Thursday as we will definitely be lacking without him up front.

So, not sure what else should be mentioned. First place in the playoffs and it looks like were heading in the right direction if we want to reach Champions League qualification. PAO were simply dreadful in their game with PAOK, so to be honest, I’m kind of looking forward to our game with them on Thursday because I’m confident we can get a win if we play solid.

Its getting late here, so tomorrow I’ll upload some videos and pictures from the celebrations in Nea Filadelfia.