Archive for the Greek Soccer Category

AEK Returns to Champions League

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2017 by alexaek

After a ten year absence, AEK has the chance to book a place in the group stages of the Champions League next season. Of course it wont be easy as there is the potential of some big clubs standing in our way, but even just the chance to see us play in some Champions League qualifiers is an exciting prospect.

So, how did we end up here? Well it ultimately comes as a result of our win against Panionios today in Nea Smirni. The game got off to a rocky start with Panionios scoring first but it was clear AEK weren’t going to standby and gift a win to Panionios with the chances they were creating. Panionios didn’t end up holding on to their lead for long though as 13 minutes after they opened the scoring, AEK responded with a goal of their own courtesy of Mantalos.

The game got a little more interesting in the second half when Panionios had a man sent off which was followed by Lazaros getting a straight red. With ten players on each side, it was anyone’s game but it was Araujo who, in what was most likely his last game for AEK, scored the winner with a nicely taken header.

The win was a critical one since PAOK were right on our tails in the standings but Panathinaikos’ win in Toumba took off some of the pressure. With the playoffs having drawn to a close, we finished with 12 points from the six games; not perfect, but it was enough for the team to accomplish what it set out to.

Aside from clinching a place in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, the game was also notable for quite likely being Araujo’s last with the team. I say “likely” because while I doubt we’ll see him back with the club next season, I’m still somewhat hopeful something can be worked out. Its clear he has enjoyed his time with the club (this was made even more evident today after he mentioned his love for the club and his desire to return as soon as possible) and he clearly has the potential to play a massive role in the team. His price tag is high but even if we cant outright buy him, maybe he’ll put some pressure on Las Palmas to extend his stay in Athens where he’ll have much more of an opportunity to develop as a player.

The game could also have been Jimenez’s final match in charge of the club. I certainly hope this isn’t the case as hes turned the club around significantly, but he hasn’t committed to the team yet and there have yet to be any negotiations between Jimenez and management. It would be a huge shame to see him leave after this season: hes established himself once again at AEK, he has gained the trust of the players, and he has brought some much needed stability to the club. I’m not sure what his demands will be in order for him to stick around next season, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they can be reached.

Highlights of the match:

Supporters chanting Araujo’s name after the match:

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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 0-0 Iraklis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2016 by alexaek

A massive opportunity for AEK to make a statement was wasted earlier today when we failed to even sneak a win past Iraklis. Why was one game such an opportunity? Well if you haven’t seen the other results from the league yet, something pretty spectacular happened this weekend. It started when PAOK’s home game with Xanthi ending in a 0-0 draw before PAO saw a similar fate after their game against Panaitolikos also ended 0-0. Then, even more surprising than both those results, Olympiakos lost 1-0 in Larissa. Could the situation have become any better for us? We had the perfect chance to go alone in first place, all we had to do was beat Iraklis at home.

Ah but this is AEK we’re talking about, the team that has made a habit of making the easy tasks difficult. To be fair the absence of Mantalos and Almeida really hurt us, but to not even manage a goal when we needed one so badly really doesn’t sit well with me. Its still very early in the season and we’re still ahead of both PAOK and Olympiakos, but I really felt going into this season that we had a team that wouldn’t drop points in games like these. Don’t get me wrong, Iraklis is never a team that can be taken lightly, but we should be winning these games, especially when they matter so much. With the derby in Karaiskaki coming up this weekend, the three points from today would have helped us immensely. I know its asking a lot, but can you imagine if we won today and managed to sneak a win in Karaiskaki also, causing the reds to drop six points in two games? That would have felt pretty good if you ask me.

As for today’s game, I didn’t get to watch it since I was at work. It seemed to have followed a similar pattern to what I expected though: AEK controlling most of the game, creating some decent chances but not being able to put anything in the back of the net, with an Iraklis who was happy to sit back and take the occasional counter attack. It was an unfortunate result, but it gives Ketsbaia some food for thought. First of all, it sounds like Pekhart showed exactly why he isn’t considered a starter on the team. It also shows that somethings needs to be re-worked if we are to be more effective in front of goal. I know we really missed Mantalos and Almeida, but we should have some composure and creativity in and around the 18 yard box than we seemed to have today. The way Vargas and Bakasetas were linking up today at the front of our midfield just wasn’t working and its definitely a part of the pitch Ketsbaia will have to work out if Mantalos isn’t back in time for the derby this weekend.

An unfortunate result and a disappointing performance, but its still early. If anything this weekend showed that this seasons might at least be a little less predictable than usual. Olympiakos are clearly beatable with the right game plan (promising for us this weekend) and the other two still aren’t at their best yet either. Could it be close all the way to the end of the league? I certainly wouldn’t mind that for a change.

Highlights can be seen at Novasport’s site.

Veria 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Temuri Ketsbaia with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2016 by alexaek

We got our second win today in Northern Greece as our good start to the season continued thanks to goals from Bakasetas and Vargas. To be honest the scoreline wasn’t as convincing as I was expecting it to be but at the end of the day the team were able to do what was needed to get the win.

My streams today were iffy at best, but I was able to get an idea of how we were playing for the most part and while there were some positives to take away from the match, I was still a bit worried at times with what I was seeing. We did well for long stretches of time to move the ball around and create very convincing opportunities but then we would sit back at other times and make no effort to take control of the match. From what I remember we did this especially after scoring our first goal and at the start of the second half, possibly the worst moments of the match to do so (especially if we were to do so against a stronger team). I’m not sure what it is that makes the team do that but I noticed something similar against Xanthi once we had a decent lead built up, as if the whole team collectively decides to relax a little too much.

Thankfully we were able to pick things up eventually and start creating some chances again though I was worried for a while that we weren’t going to score a second goal. Its not that we weren’t creating chances, because we were, but we struggled to get things to click right in front of the net. So many great opportunities were stopped by either the keeper or the post, but many others were let down by poor finishing (noteably some of the opportunities involving Bakasetas and Platellas). I’m really happy to see us creating these chances but if we struggle to put these many away, we’ll really be made to pay for that when the derbies come around.

Enough about the negatives though, lets talk about what worked well for us. Two players stood out for me: Patito and Bakasetas. Patito was a constant threat on the right side of the pitch, constantly working the ball further towards goal and sending in perfectly placed passes. Normally when I see a player with the ball near the box I’d rather they just got it in with a pass rather than try to dribble past some defenders but Patito doesn’t cause those same kind of worries with me. He, much like Scocco, has that tight ball control that enables him to seemingly effortlessly make his past one, two, or more defenders. Its beautiful and exciting stuff to watch and its only a matter of time until he scores a phenomenal goal himself (I’m thinking something along the lines of Scocco’s goal against Olympiakos back in that 4-4 cup final).

Bakasetas also had a great game which I was very happy to see. While the singings of Almeida, Lescott, and Patito were all great moves during the summer, it was Bakasetas’ singing that I was most excited about. Today proved why he was such a great catch by us and I can only hope that we’ll see more of him in games to come. He was a constant threat upfront, provided the assist for the second goal, and showed great awareness of what was going on around him on a few occasions. All too often a young Greek talent comes to one of the big teams and ultimately fails to make any significant impact but I genuinely feel that Bakasetas could be the exception to that.

Aside from those two players, the rest of the team did well too. Mantalos was dangerous, Almeida had some great chances before he had to be subbed off (hopefully his injury isn’t much worse this time around). We were sound defensively and while I feel Lescott still needs another game or two to really settle in, I feel like hes starting to get comfortable with what he has to do.

Ketsbaia did alright today, everyone seemed to know their roles well and though the starting lineup was predictable, it was the one that made the most sense to go with. One thing he did though which really confused me was taking off Patito and subbing on Platellas. Platellas ultimately did alright, but I really didn’t understand the logic behind the move. We were still looking for a goal, Patito didn’t show any sign of injury and was still contributing to the match. Why Ketsbaia decided to take him off for a player who plays a similar role I can’t quite figure out. But hey, we got the result in the end so I won’t question it too much yet. Whether his decisions will cost us in the derbies we’ll have to see.

As usual a round of applause is due for our supporters in Veria today. Though I was only able to watch from my computer a few thousand kilometres away from the stadium, it never once seemed like an away game. AEK supporters filled a curve at the end as well one of the main stands along the side of the pitch and if the reactions from some of the players and Ketsbaia is anything to go by, their support really made a difference throughout the match.

Highlights, though not in great quality, can be seen here:

And, if you have some extra time you can watch the whole match here:

 

AEK 4-1 Xanthi

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League, Jerseys, Keepers with tags , , , , on September 11, 2016 by alexaek

Our Superleague campaign got off to the best possible start today with a convincing 4-1 win over Xanthi. While there may have been a few scares provided by Xanthi and their determined offense, we also saw glimpses of what could be one of the best AEK teams of the past five to ten years.

The MVP of the match award deservedly went to Almeida after he scored two goals, one of which will without a doubt be the goal of the week. It was the perfect start to the season that Almeida would have been hoping for, helping to quiet all those within the press (not to mention the supporters of some of our rivals) who said he was unfit, old, and past his prime. He may not be the youngest striker out there but he showed today exactly why we signed him: a physical presence that allows him to be a threat in the box and to hold the ball up well, as well as being someone who possesses the technique to pull off some amazing goals when the moment presents itself.

While Almeida certainly deserves the credit for today’s performance, it has to be mentioned that we had some other players who also put in some fantastic performances. Patito was a noticeable one, providing excellent speed through the middle and down the flanks. He also played a crucial role in our first two goals, setting up both of them with perfect balls in that placed the goals on a platter for the two scorers (Almeida and Mantalos).

Chygrynskiy also did well, keeping up the good form he had during the pre-season. He was solid at the back but also did very well to carry the ball up the pitch on a couple occasions. He did so well going forward that he could have had a goal himself had his shot not been narrowly saved by Xanthi’s keeper Zivkovic. We were also lucky to have the fantastic keeping of Anestis who, despite once letting a ball slip underneath him, pulled off some fantastic saves to keep AEK in the game.

It has to be said that the rest of the team did well too. There were a couple weaknesses, such as with Lambropoulos covering in central midfield to cover for Simoes (who started on the bench so as not to aggravate a minor injury picked up in training). To be fair to Lambropoulos, its a position he is not too familiar with and he had a fair bit of pressure. All things considered, he didn’t do all too badly.

As fantastic as the performance was today, I can only imagine how much better the team will be once they’ve had a couple more games to gel together. We also have to keep in mind that both Lazaros was out due to injury and Simoes didn’t start the match. With both those players fit and in the starting XI, we’ll have the most well rounded team that we’ve had in as long as I can remember.

Overall its looking like we might be in for the best Superleague season of recent memory. Its still early but AEK, Panathinaikos, and PAOK are all looking strong and I think its safe to see that any of us can challenge Olympiakos for the title. If this keeps up, this championship could go down to the last couple of weeks. How great would it be if all four teams were still in it with a week to go in the championship? I can’t remember that happening for as long as I’ve been following the league.

Highlights, as usual, can be watched at NovaSports site.

I must say that the kits looked great during the match today:

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Our supporters were fantastic as usual:

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Panionios 1-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer, Manager, Playoffs, Pre-season, Signing, Singings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2016 by alexaek

A disappointing end to what has been a very disappointing bunch of playoff games for AEK. I knew going into it all that we’d be pretty tired and worn out, but I was hoping for better than 4th place but what can you do? Honestly I can’t complain, I’d rather see us win the Cup and finish 4th rather than finish 2nd but not win the Cup.

I didn’t get to watch the match but it didn’t sound like I missed all that much anyways. We did have a few chances, notably yet another post by Aravidis, but the commentary I was following gave me the impression that it was Panionios who were having more success going forward.

Despite the unfortunate result, it was nice to see Zuculini in the starting XI. I know he had mentioned a few times that he wanted to play for the team again and it was great to see him get a chance. Not sure if theres any chance he’ll be with us next season but I think its worth considering our options if we can keep him. We didn’t get to see all that much from him so I would like to see what he could after a whole pre-season with the team.

Aside from Zuculini, we also brought some other players with us who have yet to feature all that much for us this season including Vouras, Svarnas, Vasilantonopoulos, Vlahomitros, Galanopoulos, and Kyriazis. To be honest I don’t remember seeing all that much at all of any of these players aside from Svarnas and Vasilantonopoulos, but it was nice to see them included. Only Galanopoulos, Vasilantonopoulos and Vlahomitros ended up playing as subs and I’m not really sure how well they played or what contributions they made to the team.

 

Today’s match was the last time we’d see Nikos Pantazis on the bench with the team. Niko, who has been part of AEK’s physiotherapy team since 1972, has been arguably the most loyal member of the team through all these years. He grew up as an AEK fan and never once left the team. When I was back in Greece he was one of those people I always just associated with AEK. Players left, coaches left as often as management did, but Niko was always there. I just wanted to take a moment to thank him for his dedication to the club, even through all that the team has been through. It will be weird seeing shots of the team bench on TV without him on it.

Nikos celebrating the club (photo courtesy of http://www.gazzetta.gr)

 

Shortly after our game today, various news outlets started posting articles in which they said we were very close to singing a new manager. The manager they all mention is Philippe Montanier, most recently the manager of Rennes. He has also managed Real Sociedad and was assistant manager to the Ivory Coast. He’s not too old, but not too young that he lacks experience, and he seems like a fairly serious manager. I don’t all that much about him and while there were other managers out there I would have liked to see with the team, I’d be pretty satisfied if we ended up singing Montanier. Regardless of who do end up singing, I would just like to see it finalized as soon as possible so we can start building our squad right away.

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.