Archive for the Champions League Category

A Busy Spring So Far

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Friendlies, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2018 by alexaek

Usually at this point, things are relatively quiet. Players are still on vacation, trade rumours are starting to pick up steam but not really amounting to anything, and more often than not we’re just left with the typical sports tabloid gossip.

Things have different this spring. In fact, it seems like every three or four days, another piece of news seems to surface which drastically affects the outlook for next season. I’ll try to recap the main highlights of the off-season so far, in order of significance:

  • The first piece of news worth mentioning happens to also be the most recent. Just a few days ago, Jimenez was supposedly given an ultimatum: accept AEK’s offer within 48 hours or the offer would no longer be valid. The 48 hours passed and it seemed like Jimenez was still no closer to signing with us. Instead, things started to change when he began suggesting that he was hoping to return to Spain rather than continue with AEK. This became evident when I woke up to the news that not only had Jimenez not accepted our offer, but we acted quickly to secure Marinos Ouzounidis for next season. It was kind of a shock, and a move that came out of nowhere for me, but I’m kind of happy about it. Afterall, Jimenez had already given us a Cup and a Championship after his two stints with the team, and he also brought us on a decent run in Europe. Realistically he gave us all he could and while I’m grateful for how he turned the team around, I think its fair that he was looking for a new challenge in Spain. On the other hand, Ouzounidis is an experienced coach in Greece, someone who seems down to earth and prefers to stay out of the spotlight, and a coach who in all fairness did pretty well to keep PAO afloat despite all the challenges they faced these past two seasons. I think if he continues to receive the backing that Jimenez received, he could do very well for us.
  • Lazaros ditched us and signed for Oly. This one also came as a shock to me though in hindsight, I guess it shouldn’t have since it sounds like hes left teams on bad terms in the past as well. The move didn’t make sense to me from his perspective: he had just finished possibly the best season of his career, with a championship winning team, and destined to play Champions League qualifiers next season with a chance at even making the group stages. Instead, he leaves that behind and goes to a team that can play Europa League at best and has a management group that is as volatile as ever. I guess the money was too good to say no to as far as he was concerned, but it makes you realize that loyalty just isn’t a concept that exists to certain players, especially when you become the first player in history to play for PAOK, PAO, AEK, and now Oly… He gave us some great moments, especially this season, but I would love to see the look on his face if AEK manages to finish higher than Oly yet again.
  • While those last two pieces of news were quite shocking, this one wasn’t quite as much. It was, however, a great move on our part: AEK agreed to pay the buyout clause for Livaja, set at 1.8 million Euros. Its not what I would call cheap, but I would call it a bargain considering how reliable he was for us this season. I can’t remember if a deal has been put in place between Livaja and the club but either way, its great to know that he is ours now, and theres no risk of him being snatched back by Las Palmas.
  • Araujo, on the other hand, has been all but confirmed to be going back to Las Palmas. This doesn’t surprise me really, as I was surprised we even managed to get him back on loan last season. He had a great season as well and definitely showed that he deserves a chance to feature more prominently with the Spanish side.
  • Despite Notingham Forest being interested in promising Greek striker Christos Albanis, AEK were able to secure him before anyone else could. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with him yet, but from what I’ve been reading it sounds like he should be quite the prospect for us. I guess we’ll start to see in the friendlies which should be taking place in about a month or so.

I think that pretty much covers the majority of what has been going on so far this offseason, but please do let me know in the comments section if I forgot anything!

PS: I’m wishing nothing but a speedy recovery for Salah! As someone who doesn’t have a country to cheer for at the World Cup this summer for the first time in my lifetime, I was really hoping to see Salah have a good run in the tournament. Huge shame what happened to him today against Madrid, but hopefully he makes it back in time. Hes proven himself to be a class act all season long and definitely doesn’t deserve to be on the sidelines after the season he has had so far.

 

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Champions of Europe!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , , on May 6, 2018 by alexaek

Just when you think this weekend can’t get any better for AEK supporters around the world, it does! After a night full of celebrations for the Championship win Saturday evening, our basketball club topped it all of by winning the FIBA Champions League trophy in Athens. The win came after a hard fought 100-94 win over Monaco, runners up in the tournament for the second year in a row.

The game was a little close for comfort at times but it must be said that AEK played a perfect game really. Aside from a few potentially costly errors towards the end, they executed their game perfectly for the majority of the match. Right from the start we were the stronger team with far more consistency in offense and a defensive cohesion that Monaco just couldn’t counter. While the usual suspects contributed to the match as expected, it was the unexpected MVP performance of Mike Green that proved to be the difference maker. As the commentators said, he played what was arguably the best game of his career to date. Without his performance, its safe to say the game could have ended up being a lot closer than it already was.

The last few minutes of the game were perhaps the most tense moments of the entire match:

It seems as though this weekend has just been one long party for AEK supporters in Athens. Just as they we’re recovering from a long night out yesterday on the streets of Nea Filadelfia, another celebration got underway at OAKA shortly after the end of the match:

It wasn’t just our supporters who were cheering on the team today. Jimenez and co were also present in the stands for the match:

What a weekend. All I can hope for is many more of these in the seasons to come.

The Fiesta We’ve All Been Waiting For

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Greek Football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , on May 5, 2018 by alexaek

A fiesta that we’ve waited 24 years for, a fiesta that has been long overdue, finally Nea Filadelfia was able to celebrate the only way we know how. Flares, chanting, and a party that probably still lingers on the streets hours after the bus carrying the champions passed by.

The celebrations really started after our 1-0 win against Apollon Smyrnis, a game which technically was an away match though in reality was played in front of about ten thousand AEK supporters.

An open roof bus, painted specifically for this occasion, made its way from Rizoupoli stadium to Nea Filadelfia where it was, as expected, greeted by a sea of singing supporters. When I was re-watching some of the live coverage, people were estimating about thirty thousand supporters in the streets, and it certainly seemed that way from the video footage that I saw.

 

Its times like these when I would give anything to have the chance to be back in Greece. Its one thing to watch videos of this thousands of kilometers away but I truly cannot even imagine what it would have been like to be in Athens tonight. I’ve been around for some great moments, such as when we won the cup in 2011, but I have a feeling the atmosphere in Athens tonight would have been pretty unbelievable with the league now over, our basketball team in the Champions League final (tomorrow!) and the stadium on its way to being completed.

Now, as Melissanidis said earlier tonight, we look forward to more championships. With time, we might just be able to celebrate them in our new stadium before we know it!

Basketball Champions League Finalists!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League with tags , , , on May 4, 2018 by alexaek

After a tough game against Murcia that was a little too close for comfort, AEK managed to book its place in the Champions League Finals set to take place this Sunday. The final score of 77-75 was enough to put us through in front of what was, as to be expected, incredible support from our fans in Athens.

Final 4 for AEK!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League with tags , , on April 4, 2018 by alexaek

AEK has booked its place in the Basketball Champions League Final 4, exactly 50 years after winning the European Cup Winners Cup against Slavia. All we needed to do was not lose by more than 9 points so the final score of 83-83 against Strasburg was more than enough to see us through. At the moment, there is talk of Athens being the most likely city to host the Final 4 and not only would that be a huge boost to our chances of winning the tournament, but it would be so fitting that we win a European championship once again in the same city where we won our first 50 years ago.

The players, as expected, enjoyed every minute of their celebrations after the game:

Our supporters in France were also in great form after breaking the Champions League attendance record last week in Athens:

It was our players though who stole the show:

Larissa 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Greek Soccer with tags , , on January 21, 2018 by alexaek

So that was disappointing…

At least the result doesn’t signal the end of the road for us just yet. The 1 point we managed to salvage is still a big one as it still keeps us within reach of first, but I think its fair to assume these draws are starting to become a bit tiring. Yesterday’s result marks our fifth draw so far this campaign. Thats five draws out of 18 games, which means a lot of dropped points that we simply can’t afford to drop. It also doesn’t help that both PAOK and Oly secured 3-0 wins earlier today against Apollon and Xanthi respectively.

I was only able to watch the first half but what I saw from it didn’t exactly fill me with confidence for the second half. We had a couple sporadic chances but we never really showed any control over the game. It didn’t help that Larissa came into the game with the idea of defending as much as possible and the highlight reel below suggests just that. Most of our legitimate chances were limited to far shots from outside of the box while the few times we managed to break into the box, our efforts were quickly pushed aside by Larissa’s defense.

Overall there isn’t too much to be happy about with yesterday’s result but if there is one thing worth noting, its that we have now gone 17 games undefeated in all competitions (League, Cup, and Europa League). The last time we went 17 games undefeated in all competitive matches was in 2002, the season in which we drew all of our Champions League group stage matches (including against Roma and Real Madrid). For a little trip down memory lane, heres a reminder of some of the great players we had that season: Chiotis, Kostenoglou, Zagorakis, Tsiartas, Nikolaidis, Kasapis, Katsouranis, Lakis, and Kapsis. Don’t get me wrong, we have a decent squad this season but I would give anything to be able to see an AEK squad like that play again…

 

Back To Winning Ways

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2017 by alexaek

After a less than ideal weekend, our football and basketball teams got back to winning ways in the Cup and Champions League respectively. For our football side, it was a 4-0 away win against Panaitolikos that all but secures us a place in the next round courtesy of goals from Lazaros, Bakasetas, Galo, and Giakoumakis.

A win for AEK was always going to be the more likely result, but it was nice to also see the team get back to goal scoring ways after they struggled so much over the weekend against Apollon. It was a pretty strong lineup that Jimenez fielded today with only Galanopoulos being the non-regular. Otherwise it was a lineup similar to what we’ve been used to seeing this season which I didn’t mind considering the team will have a couple weeks to rest before they return after the break. One noticeable player missing was Simoes, who was recently diagnosed with an injury that should keep him sidelined for about 3-4 weeks.

All in all a good result which should give us a chance to rest some key players when the next match takes place in early January. I’m reading up on the match and watching the recording as I write this, but from what I’m seeing it looks like we were clearly the stronger side and generally played some fairly attractive football. That’s a relief to see considering how poor we looked over the weekend. Its promising to see that the team was able to turn things around quickly and not dwell on what happened last weekend for too long, and its also nice to see Barkas get the cleansheet. Considering we don’t really know what will happen with regards to Anestis’ contract, we’ll need all the goaltending we can get from Barkas and Tsintotas.

 

It wasn’t only our football club in action today as we also had a basketball game against Venezia for the Champions League. I had mixed feelings going into this game about whether we’d pull off a result considering we managed to beat them in Italy, but we also didn’t look too great against PAOK over the weekend. Luckily, our basketball team was also able to put their disappointing result behind them and come away with a 84-64 win.

The win was a huge one for us as it puts us 3rd place in our group and in a good spot for qualification to the next round. Green finished the night with 19 points and 10 assists while Mavroeidis also had 19 points complimented by 6 rebounds. Other noteworthy performances came from Sakota who finished with 10 points and Harris and James who both finished with 8 points.

Despite the result and the fact that we find ourselves in 3rd place, the group is still very tight with 3rd to 6th all tied on 14 points. Its worth remembering that the top four teams from each group advance so we’re safe where we are at the moment, but any poor results going forward could be the difference between qualifying and going home early.