Archive for the Greek Football Category

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!

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At A Loss For Words

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2018 by alexaek

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in Greek football, something happens that makes you realize you haven’t seen anything yet. What unfolded in Toumba today proved yet again that you can really never know what to expect when it comes to this league (though calling it a “league” would be a little too generous… maybe “zoo” would be more appropriate).

It all started with what happened early Sunday morning (or late Saturday night for those of us in North America) as I mentioned yesterday. PAOK’s punishment for what happened two weeks earlier in Toumba were reversed as they were given back 3 points and were allowed to play with fans in the stadium for today’s match. How those decisions were made is beyond me, but what was more important today was the game at hand against the only team that could challenge us for the league.

The game got off to what was surprisingly a quiet start off the pitch. Little fan trouble from what I could tell and no issues in the locker rooms either, though the match itself was a dirty one. Tackles were coming from both sides and as would be expected, it wasn’t the kind of environment that encouraged flowing football. Eventually things settled down and we did see some chances for both sides, including scoring opportunities for Araujo, Livaja, and Bakasetas.

The match was heading for a 0-0 stalemate when at the 89th minute, PAOK scored from a corner. Or did they? Replays showed that a PAOK player was clearly in an offside position and though the referee originally indicated that the goal was a good one, he seemed to track back on that decision. After consulting with his linesman and dealing with pressure from both sets of players, he seemed to reverse his decision (a call which I believe was a good one, though “experts” in Greece seem undecided on whether the goal should have counted or not).

Now you might be wondering, what was so odd about that? A fairly dirty game, a few chances for both sides, and a last minute winner are all to be expected in a derby. Well, it was after the referee changed his mind on the goal that things unfortunately turned ugly. What happened next was honestly something I would never have expected to see, not even in Greek football.

At this point in the game with the score reversed back to 0-0, Ivan Savidis, owner of PAOK, stormed on to the pitch and instructed his players to leave the pitch. I guess he was attempting to protest the refs decision to disallow the goal? In either case, it didn’t help to calm the situation down at all and he faced resistance from his own players after they refused to leave the pitch and insisted on finishing the match. The situation escalated from there as Savidis made his way towards the refs and AEK’s bench, supposedly cursing officials including referee Kominis and a number of AEK staff members.

What made all of this almost unbelievable is one small detail that wasn’t originally shown on TV. Pictures that surfaced not long after all this happened show Savidis walking onto the pitch with a pistol strapped to his waist. Yes, thats right. PAOK’s owner walks on to the pitch and not only does he start threating officials and staff of AEK, but he does so with a gun on him. I can honestly say I’ve seen it all in Greek football now. I don’t know if Savidis thought he was back in Russia, where maybe that kind of thing happens regularly, but I think its safe to say you can understand why AEK players and staff made their way to the dressing room shortly after that.

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After the incident involving Savidis, the refereeing team also made their way to the dressing rooms and it was at this point where the result of the match was completely up in the air. Would the game continue? Would it be ended as a draw? It took around two hours before a decision was made and the decision that was officially declared by the ref was one that not even the radio commentators had ever seen before. Officially, the ref claimed a 1-0 PAOK win and declared the game “called off” because AEK refused to re-enter the pitch. So the goal counted, then was taken back, and was then re-awarded to PAOK after the fact. Yep, I don’t think I’ll ever see a day like this again in Greek Football.

Now, at this point the match might be awarded 1-0 for PAOK but I think its safe to say that this is far from over. This will definitely be taken to court, and AEK will have a strong case for having the result reversed in some way. I’m sure it will be a couple weeks at least until we know what officially the outcome of this match is. Its also worth noting that there is talk of the government shutting down the league, indefinitely or for the remainder of the season. I’m sure the headlines of newspapers throughout Greece will be pretty interesting…

One Step Closer!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup, Greek Football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2018 by alexaek

AEK took one huge step closer to the Championship today after beating Panionios 1-0 at home. However, it wasn’t our victory alone but rather what happened with PAOK and Oly that has made the difference. Prior to our game today, Asteras clinched an unbelievable 3-2 over PAOK in the 98th minute, a minute after PAOK had made it 2-2 in the 97th minute. On top of that, Olmympiakos and PAO played to a 1-1 draw after ten man PAO managed to tie the score in the 87th minute. Both those results mean we are now two points clear of PAOK and seven points clear of Oly.

All of that could change depending on whether Oly get awarded three points and PAOK get three points deducted after last week’s fiasco in Toumba, something which would also play out nicely in our favour. On top of that we play PAOK next weekend, a game which if we win could see us ultimately move eight points clear of them.

As for our game today, well it was really a game of two halves. The first half was rather enjoyable to watch as an AEK supporter. We created numerous chances (I think we had 13 by the end of the first half) and had a few legitimate goal scoring opportunities including a tet-a-tet which Araujo failed to put away. It was Livaja who made the difference though after latching onto a Galo cross and heading the ball in.

On top of attacking well, we also pressured Panionios relentlessly, so much so that they didn’t have a single chance at the end of the first 45 minutes. We defended well when they did move forward and overall looked well on track to sealing the three points.

The second half however was a different story. We were sloppy and careless, gifted Panionios way too much space, and struggled to really build and substantial attacks. I’ll blame it on fatigue for now, but hopefully we don’t see more of the same when we play in Toumba next week otherwise we won’t get away so easily. Thankfully, Panionios’ attack was fairly disjointed and failed to really threaten much and we were able to do enough to hold on.

Our match against Panionios today wasn’t the only match we played this week. I never got a post up about it, but we also faced Larissa in the first round of the Cup Semi-Finals. Unfortunately, the news to report isn’t good. We lost 2-1 which, on the bright side of things means we have a crucial away goal and should be in a good position to clinch our spot in the final when we play them again in Athens. The bad news about the result is that our undefeated streak has now come to an end. Its sad to the streak, which lasted around 24 games, come to an end like that but really in the grand scheme of things streak or no streak will hardly matter if we manage to hold on and win the league.

Like I said, I’m not worried about this result. Larissa are hardly a threat and a regrouped AEK should have no trouble beating this team when we face again in Athens.

Atromitos 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Derby, football, Greek Football with tags , , , , on February 26, 2018 by alexaek

So as you may have seen already, and as was mentioned in a comment in a previous point, the all important PAOK-Oly game was never played. I’m sure it comes as no surprise too that the reason was once again fan trouble from the PAOK fans.

Why would I bring this up in a post about a game between AEK and Atromitos? Well the possible implications in our hunt for the title could end up being decisive. Nothing is determined for sure yet but it seems quite possible that PAOK could have 3 points deducted, and will likely play a couple games without supporters. The 3 point deduction is huge as it drops PAOK 2 points below us and places us alone in 1st. Whats frustrating about today’s game is had we managed to hold on to our 1-0 lead, we would have had the chance be even further ahead of PAOK before we play them in a game where they likely won’t have any home support. Its a huge opportunity lost but at the end of the day I can’t say I’m surprised. Atromitos are never an easy team to face and afterall they were the last team to beat us in all competitions back in October of 2017. It didn’t help that fatigue has clearly started to get the best of us, resulting in a game where we often failed to control the pace for extended periods of time.

Unfortunately the disappointment didn’t end with the result itself. Livaja picked up a yellow meaning he will have to miss two of the next four games: Panionios, PAOK, Panathinaikos, and Platanias. On top of that, Araujo, Simoes, and Hult all picked up injuries during the game but I’m not sure yet whether any of them are particularly serious.

Highlights of today’s game are below, featuring Araujo’s goal to make it 1-0 for AEK and Warda’s beauty to tie it for the home team.

 

For something a little more uplifting, even if today’s result isn’t the end of the world, take a look at this video showing the progress being made in Nea Filadelfia. Its an exciting time to be an AEK fan as things are actually starting to come together regarding the stadium.

AEKARA!! (Olympiakos 1-2 AEK)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2018 by alexaek

Greek derbies… you gotta love them! You never know what can happen and with the way AEK has played this season, expecting anything but the unexpected is just foolish.

So when AEK were down 1-0 in Karaiskaki, with under ten minutes to go, all one had to do was remember our 3-2 come from behind win earlier this season to get some hope that the same thing could happen again. Sure enough, as we had already seen from our previous league encounter with Olympiakos, this AEK team won’t give up when it matters most. With league standings on the line and a huge psychological advantage over our Cup opponents up for grabs, AEK had everything to play for and they did just that.

Jimenez’s timing with his substitution of Giakoumakis for Bakasetas proved to be a stroke of genius as the Cretan played a role in our first goal (which was ultimately scored by Chygrinskiy) and scored the game winner with his first Superleague goal for AEK. If he was looking for his chance to make an impression, he certainly took advantage of it today.

The team in general handled the game pretty well. Tsintotas was brilliant overall in nets, making some big saves to keep us in the game. To be fair to him there was nothing he could do on the goal we conceded.

Our defense was decent overall, but their sloppiness at times almost cost us. Overall though they did what they had to and for the most part limited Olympiakos’ chances of scoring. In fact prior to their goal, they hadn’t even had a genuine chance at scoring for the first 30 minutes of the 2nd half.

Our midfield was pretty good overall too. It took a little while but once the game settled in, they were able to take control for much of the game. One thing I would have liked to have seen more was moving the ball forward. We tended to hold on to it without actively looking for space up ahead, but in an away derby against Olympiakos, it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to risk too much. It was a physical game with over 50 fouls committed by the two sides so our midfielders had to grind out much of the game. It didn’t help that the ref was letting so much slide resulting in a constant barrage of dangerous tackles.

Offensively we were pretty effective. We might not have created many chances for ourselves, but the ones we did create often resulted in great chances. One such chance came from a Masoud header that was just cleared off the line by Olympiakos defender Cisse.

Its hard to describe just how good a result like this feels. Derby wins are always so special on a number of different levels, but this one might just be one of the best ones recently. Not only did we beat them in their own home, with a last minute game winner, but we now leap frog them into 2nd place. The top 3 in the league is now PAOK with 46 points, AEK with 44, and Olympiakos with 42. A loss, or even a draw, would have almost put 1st place out of reach but now we’re one win away from being top again. We should also keep in mind that we only have two derbies left while PAOK still have three, including a game against us which we could easily win.

One of my favourite parts about winning a derby is that its not just the win itself, but what comes after it for us supporters. Needless to say, the celebrations in Athens were pretty crazy. The reception the team got at their hotel was pretty crazy, and its making me wonder what the scenes will be like if we manage to win the league this year.

The scenes inside Karaiskaki meanwhile were far less celebratory. Rioting quickly ensued after the game and from what I’ve heard it wasn’t pretty. Begs the question, will Olympiakos be punished? A game or two without fans is the least they should face, with a point deduction being totally possible here as well. Will it happen? I won’t hold my breath.

Oh I forgot to mention that on its approach to the stadium, AEK’s bus had a window smashed with a rock. Classic Greek scenes… oh well, I’m sure the Olympiakos fan who threw the rock feels great about his team now. Meanwhile a broken bus window is the last thing on our minds right now 🙂

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.

AEK 3-0 Brugge

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2017 by alexaek

Back in the Group Stages After Six Years

Its been six years since AEK last played in the group stages of the Europa League but that droubt will soon be coming to an end. After a dominant performance in Athens, AEK have confirmed their return and they made sure to make a statement with today’s match.

Reading the comments of supporters all morning leading up to the game, I could sense the optimism right away. From all accounts it sounds like the atmosphere in the stands was fantastic, as if the fans knew right away that there would be a happy ending to today’s match. Sure enough they weren’t disappointed as not only did we come away with the result we were looking for, but we did it in such a confident way. I was listening to the radio as I was walking home from work just after the game had finished and commentators had mentioned that this was possibly one of the more impressive displays they’ve seen from AEK in a European game.

Credit first of all has to go to Jimenez as it sounds like he got the lineup just right today. Defensively it sounds like we gave Brugge very little space and the lack of quality chances they had attests to that. Equally impressive was how we handled our attack as we were able to create numerous high quality scoring opportunities. Lazaros had a fantastic game which was capped off with his opening goal from the penalty spot. Simoes also had an equally great game with AEK365 going as far as giving him a 10 out of 10 rating. They say that this was possibly the best game of his career and I can see some reasoning behind the enthusiasm. Afterall, he scored two goals and was responsible for drawing the penalty that lead to our first goal.

Klonaridis and Mantalos were also extremely effective along with the rest of our attack but one attacking player who stood out even more was Almeida. Its been a while since we’ve seen a genuinely strong performance from him but today he seemed to give it his all as he set up some close calls and also came awfully close to scoring a goal or two himself. Its clear his technique and awareness on the pitch is still there if he choses to apply himself.

Overall the whole team deserves credit from what I’ve been reading. One commentator said its one thing to get the win but its another to go all out and continue searching for goals even after going a goal or two up. People online were worried at half time, noting that we had to be careful not to get too comfortable and to not give Brugge too much space, which was a very valid point. PAO were leading Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at half time last week and ended up losing 2-3. Having said that, not only did we not give Brugge too much space, but we continued to push forward and were rewarded with a third goal to all but seal the win.

Of course, its from this point on that the going really gets tough. Brugge were never expected to be an easy team, and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but what lies ahead is where things start to get interesting. The list of teams that we could possibly get drawn against from the first pool almost seems like a pool of teams for a Champions League draw. First pool teams include: Arsenal, Lazio, Milan, Lyon, Villareal, and Athletic Bilbao. Of course there are a few “easier” teams too but the majority of teams in the first pool are all names that would make most teams in Europe worry. Fortunately the second and third pool consist of teams who I think we should, on paper, be able to compete with. Everton is a possible team from the second pool and while they would be a tough match, I would love to see us get some revenge for the last time we played them. I remember living in Athens at the time and going to the game where we lost at home against Everton and one of my teachers at school was a big Everton supporter. He never let me forget it for a week… all I can say is that I would love to look him up if we do come across them in the group stages and manage to get a win.

The draw takes place tomorrow at 2:00 PM Athens time. I’m not certain but I believe a live stream is usually available for those who wish to watch it. If there is a stream, it would most likely be available on UEFA’s website.