Archive for the Europa League Category

Dynamo Kyiv 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Europa League with tags , , , , on February 22, 2018 by alexaek

It just wasn’t our day. Chance after chance, even a couple open nets, but nothing the team did could result in that crucial away goal that could have taken us through to the next round. The storyline was similar to what we saw last week: we controlled possession, had the better chances, but ultimately came up short in the end.

I could describe what we missed today, but I don’t think words could do justice to just how close we came to scoring:

 

We started on the right foot and looked quite comfortable, moving the ball around nicely despite playing in conditions that were far colder than what most of our squad would have been used to. For some reason though, the ball just didn’t want to make its way to the back of the net.

Its hard to find an explanation really, other than just plain bad luck. Its one thing to control possession and create a few half chances but had a number of genuine goal scoring opportunities.  Surely at least one of them would have gone in on any other day.

At the end of the day though it was still a performance to be proud of over and really this might be a blessing in disguise. As much as I’d like to see us advance in the Europa League, the Championship should be our priority at this point. With a roster thats already stretched a bit thin, the fewer games we have to play between now and the end of the season the better if we want to catch PAOK in the title race.

It wasn’t a waste of a season in Europe by any means. We went undefeated in ten European games and demonstrated that we have a squad that certainly has the potential to go deeper in this tournament. With a healthy Johansson and Mantalos on the team, theres no doubt that we would have sealed our progression to the next round before the end of the first game with Dynamo. If anything, our future in Europe next season looks brighter than it has for as long as I can remember.

With a big game coming up against Atromitos on Monday, I’m hoping the missed opportunities don’t drag the team down too much. If anything, this would be a great opportunity for players such as Araujo and Masoud to get some confidence back after coming so close today.

Advertisements

Where Do I Begin?

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Derby, Europa League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2018 by alexaek

What a season this has been for us AEK supporters so far. Away from the blog for one week and I have not one, not two, but three incredibly important AEK stories to discuss. Whats more is that it all took place within the span of about four days. Lets start at the beginning though:

Last Thursday we faced Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League Round of 32. The match, the first of two, took place in Athens and as I’m sure most of you know ended in a 1-1 draw. The result is a disappointing one seeing as we’ve conceded the away goal without coming away with a win, but it hardly signals the end of the road for us in Europe. A win in Kiev will guarantee we go through, but so will a 2-2 draw (or any draw really that doesn’t end 0-0 or 1-1).

I honestly have hope that we can get the result we need. We’ve already seen this team perform well with their backs against the wall this season (just look at the comeback wins against Olympiakos this season for example) and on top of that, we outplayed the Ukranians in Athens. The results might not suggest that, but we were genuinely the better team and one look at the match stats confirms that. For example, we created 14 chances (while they had 3), and 6 of our chances were on target (compared to their 1 on target). We also had 64% possession and had double the completed passes. I know this counts for little when the result isn’t favourable, but if anything it gives me hope that we have what it takes to advance.

Having said that, its worth keeping in mind that we will be without Vranjes and Livaja after they both picked up yellow cards, and both those absences will be a huge loss for us. Being without Livaja is something we could live with, but missing Vranjes will leave a gap for sure, so hopefully both Lambropoulos and Chyrgrinskiy are ready come kick off.

Apologies for the poor quality highlights, it was all I could really find on youtube:

 

To help us get over the disappointment in the Europa League from a few days prior, our Basketball club took part in the Greek Cup final on Saturday against Olympiakos. This was our first chance of winning the Cup since 2001 and our first chance of winning any silverware since 2002 so needless to say, there was a lot of expectation. On top of that, its been a rather celebratory year for the team as they’ve been celebrating the team’s 50th Anniversary since winning  the Cup Winner’s Cup and in the process becoming the first Greek team to win a European trophy in a major sport. Needless to say, the stage was set for what was bound to be a tight game and neither team disappointed.

Ultimately, we were able to do more than enough to come out on top after having thoroughly outplayed Olympiakos. It was a close game throughout but it was clear AEK we’re the stronger side for most of the game as I can only remember one point at which Olympiakos had the lead. Having said that, both teams played a great game and it was one of the more enjoyable basketball games I’ve watched this season, made even more enjoyable thanks to our 88-83 win. Its yet another win against Olympiakos across both Football and Basketball as we also beat Olympiakos’ basketball team earlier this season.

As was to be expected, the team’s reception at the Airport in Athens as they returned from Crete was quite the party:

And for those who didn’t get the chance to watch the match, it can be watched in its entirety here:

 

The weekend only got better from that point on as next up was our football match against Xanthi. Now, a league game at home against a respectable but non-threatening opponent would normally not be cause for much celebration but what happened during our 4-0 win was something worth noting. In fact, it was downright historic. Why you might ask? It all comes down to the fact that Vranjes, a centre back, had scored a hat trick by the 33rd minute. Never in the history of 1st division Greek football has a centre back scored a hat trick. Even Vranjes himself has never scored more than 3 goals in an entire season yet here he was, scoring 3 goals in 33 minutes.

Amazing really, and even more amazing when you consider some of the great centre backs we’ve had over the years: Manolas, Dellas, and Papastathopoulos are just a few that come to mind. Almost equally amazing is the fact that its been over ten years since someone scored a hat trick for AEK: the last time that happened was when Liberopoulos scored 3 in a 5-2 win over Aigaleo back in 2007.

The win, as is every win from this point onwards, was huge for us as PAOK won yet again, meaning they’re still 2 points up on us. They have two tough games coming up followed by their match against us so as long as we can keep the pressure on, theres a very good chance we can find ourselves in the lead in a few weeks time.

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.

AEK in the Round of 32!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2017 by alexaek

After finishing the group stages undefeated, AEK are in the Europa League Round of 32! Its worth remembering too that this was our first time playing in the group stages of a European Cup since before we fell to the 3rd division.

Management and the team both deserve credit for what they accomplished since even though we might not have won as many games as we would have liked, it was a solid performance in the group stages that even brought us close to beating Milan twice. The performance is especially impressive when you consider that we are the only team in our group not to lose a match after Milan’s loss to Rijeka today.

Today’s match which confirmed our progression to the next round was a 0-0 draw away against Austria Wien. Not entirely impressive on its own, but the team did well to do what they set out to do and come away with at least a point. There were some chances for both sides but it sounds like Wien rarely seemed likely to finish with a win.

Worth noting from the highlight reel below is Araujo’s chance in front of goal but also the open net missed by Wien when Tsintotas punched it straight at the opposition.

 

Of course, the hard part begins now. The draw for the next round takes place on Monday next week, and its safe to say that it could go either way. On the one hand we might be drawn against clubs like Villareal, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Lazio, or CSKA. On the other hand, we could get a little “lucky” and get drawn against a club like Red Bull Salzburg, Lokomotiv, or Viktoria Plzen. To be honest, none of the teams we could face will be easy, its just a matter of how hard it will be to get past. But hey, crazier things have happened and afterall, everyone thought Milan would easily walk through the group but we ended up giving them a run for their money both home and away. Regardless of how the draw goes, I couldn’t be more excited to see AEK in this stage of a European Cup again!

One last thing worth noting: without Olympiakos making it out of their group, we are the last Greek club standing. Aside from bragging rights, this also means we get a larger amount of the market share from UEFA which can only be a good thing.

AEK 0-0 Milan

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by alexaek

Another game against Milan, and another scoreless draw. Would a win have been nice? Oh definitely, especially after watching the highlights and realizing we had more than our fair share of chances to score. Still though, there are some key points to take away from these past two games:

  1. We’re still undefeated, four games into the group stages. Thats a pretty impressive stat bearing in mind this is our first time in the group stages of a European tournament in years.
  2. We managed to prevent Milan from scoring in two straight games, including in their home stadium. Now I know Milan aren’t in the best shape form wise but still, considering their team costs in the range of 200-250 Million Euros (I believe that is more than all Superleague teams combined), its something to be proud of. If anything these past two games show that we have a coach who understands tactics and a team that knows how to implement it.
  3. Today’s game was a key one considering we were missing Mantalos. The game was a key test to show how we would handle the situation without him on the pitch and it seems like we managed to adapt fairly well. I’m sure we would have benefited from his presence, but we still managed to control the tempo for much of the game while creating some great scoring opportunities.

Two games still remain in the group stages but we’re in a decent position. Honestly I’d say that first place in the group is still up for grabs as well, if only slightly. This Milan team has looked shaky at best and with their current form, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Austria Wien or Rijeka manage to hold them to a draw in the last two games. If that were to happen and we were to win our final two games (unlikely but definitely possible), we would finish the Group Stage in first. Not bad at all for our first time back after an extended absence. Having said that, second place is definitely ours to take at this point. I’m sure we have at least another win and a draw from the final two games in store for us which would, I believe, seal at least second place.

As for today’s game itself, I was able to follow the commentary for much of it and from what I read it sounded like we played well. It seemed as though we had a plan, were able to stick with it and, most importantly, we weren’t able to attack. In fact it sounded like we were the stronger team throughout much of the match and after watching the highlights, I think that was confirmed. I was looking at some stats as well and I think throughout the first half, Milan had the ball in our box only twice and didn’t manage a shot until well into the match.

Equally impressive were our supporters. Its a shame we weren’t able to sell out like we did the last time Milan came to town, but reports say there were around 50,000 in attendance which is a pretty decent number. It definitely puts the low attendance figures for Milan in their home match against us to shame. Unfortunately there was an incident where some Milan fans were ambushed supposedly by AEK supporters. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I read that around 9 Milan supporters and 3 AEK supporters were injured but I don’t believe any of the injuries were particularly serious.

A win would have been nice, especially considering our chances, but I’ll take the draw. More importantly for us now is our match against PAOK this weekend. Its a huge match since a win will land us in 2nd place, two points over PAOK. In fact depending on how Atromitos fare with Panionios, we could even find ourselves in 1st by the end of the weekend.

 

Milan 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, Jimenez with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by alexaek

Facing Milan in the San Siro is never an easy task, especially not against a Milan team that on paper looks to be stronger than in previous seasons. Today though, AEK showed no fear in what was the hardest match of the Europa League group stages and instead executed a game plan that stifled Milan and even lead to some good chances of our own.

Credit goes to many people, most notably Anestis who made a number of crucial saves to keep AEK in the game and within grasp of at least one point. He hasn’t been the most consistent keeper and we all know this, but today he proved why he deserves the starting role on this team. Of course it was also a team effort which led to the result and credit for this also goes to Jimenez. I’ve only managed to watch the first 15 minutes so far but from what I’ve seen and read, the team managed to execute a game plan which was able to contain Milan but also lead to considerable presence in Milan’s half. Sure we sat back a bit and expected to soak up some pressure but also managed to venture forward with confidence on a number of occasions. From what I could see we managed to dictate the tempo perfectly at times, something which was key against a Milan team who would have been looking to make a better impression after their loss to Inter over the weekend.

The result, aside from keeping our undefeated streak in the group stages alive, also gives a vital point in the standings. Its still close but 2nd place is definitely within reach and we still have two home games left. Currently Milan are in 1st with 7 points followed by AEK in 2nd with 5 points and Rijeka in 3rd with 3 points. Our next game is a home game against Milan and to be completely honest, theres no reason we can’t go for a win. We’ve beat Milan at home when they were the best team in Europe, so surely we have a chance against a Milan that is especially uninspiring at the moment. Even if we don’t get a win at home but instead manage another draw, we should still be able to beat Rijeka at home as well as Austria Wien away which would be more than enough to get us through to the next round.

It was an exciting game from start to end and while Milan had the bulk of the chances, we created a number of noteworthy chances of our own. Of note is our chance at the 40 second mark in the video below, easily the best chance of the game from what I can see.

The players naturally did their part, but our supporters deserve a special mention too. They were outsanding and the 4,000 of them in attendance managed to make the San Siro sound like Nea Filadelfia. All I could hear on TV while watching the first 15 minutes were AEK chants and it didn’t seem to end at any point during the game. I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than in the stands with AEK supporters at a match like this..

 

Xanthi 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by alexaek

After our first loss of the season to Tripolis a couple weeks ago, its safe to say we were all hoping for a bounce back win to get our title push back on track. Well, all we got instead was a rather disappointing 1-1 draw. The point helps keep us within reach of PAOK as we only sit one point behind them in 2nd, but a win would have been just enough to keep us in 1st.

It was a frustrating game to watch to say the least, as the stats clearly suggest. Possession was 65% in our favour and we more than dominated in terms of creating chances: 4 for Xanthi and 18 for AEK (with 6 chances on target). Zivkovic was great in nets for Xanthi and it was just one of those days where the ball just didn’t want to go in the back of the net. It doesn’t help that Araujo clearly still hasn’t found some good form. I’m not sure if its the pressure of the expectations of last season, or if theres something else but I was expecting him to find some form by now. If he doesn’t find it soon we could be in trouble since hes naturally a big part of this team.

At the end of the day I can’t say I’m too surprised with the result. Xanthi is one of those towns along with Tripolis where we often seem to struggle. You just have to look back at our past games in Xanthi dating back to 2012 season and the results dont paint a very promising picture: One win, one loss, and four draws. All in all its not the end of the world for us just yet as we still have a three point buffer between us and Olympiakos, but we wont be this lucky for much longer. Olympiakos got their first win this weekend since the 26th of August but if past seasons are anything to go by, its only a matter of time until Olympiakos get back to winning form one way or another. We’ll also have to be weary of PAO who have managed to put together 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season and while they might not seem like a threat at the moment, they can’t be discounted quite yet.

 

As dissappointing as that result was, hopefully the team can put it behind them and focus on the upcoming match against AC Milan at the San Siro. We’ve never beat Milan away from home, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out to strong to make a good impression after their derby loss to Inter over the weekend. I know we have a good team, but I’m not expecting the three points here. Having said that, Rijeka managed to give them a hard time in Milan a few weeks ago, so perhaps they have some weakness we can take advantage of.