Champions Again, 24 Years Later!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2018 by alexaek

I know, I know, its not official yet as we’re still (!) waiting on the court case regarding the PAOK-AEK match in Toumba. But, its hart to not feel like we’re champions following the scenes that were a result of our 2-0 victory over Levadeiakos.

In front of 70,000 cheering and chanting supporters, we practically sealed our 12th Championship in history, and our first since the 1993-1994 season. Bakasetas was the hero today as he scored both goals, including one from the penalty spot. The highlight of the game though is when Mantalos made his way onto the pitch, 172 days since he last played a match for AEK after recovering from a serious knee injury.

Its amazing to think we’ve finally achieved this considering where we were playing not that long ago. As Tzanetopoulos said, the team has been dreaming about this moment from when they were playing in the 3rd division and it has finally happened!

Theres a lot that can be said about what happened today in Athens, but I’ll let some video footage do the talking.

I was relieved to see that the supporters in the stands didn’t cause any trouble during and after the match. I was sure that just a few flares or a few fans storming the pitch afterwards would have had some teams demanding some kind of punishment for AEK.

Instead of causing any trouble in the stadiums, our supporters left the more “rambunctious” celebrations for the streets of Nea Filadelfia.

The celebrations inside the locker room meanwhile were equally enthusiastic:

Theres not much that can be said really after a day like this. All I can say is that this team deserves credit. The players, the staff, Jimenez, Melissanidis, everyone has done an incredible job to get this far. We’ve all but won the league, we’re in the Cup Final, we were undefeated in the Europa League, its hard to remember a better time to be an AEK supporter in recent memory. Lets just hope the court case goes favorably for us so that we can well and truly host a fiesta like we did back in Nea Filadelfia!

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One Step Closer to the Double

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup, Greek Super League with tags , , , , on April 21, 2018 by alexaek

AEK took huge two steps towards “the Double” this past week after beating Platanias 1-0 in the league and beating Larissa by the same scoreline for the Cup Semi-Final 2nd leg.

The scoreline for the game against Platanias might seem disappointing at first glance, but we did have our chances and Platanias, as would have been expected, played a rather defensive game. Our lone goal was scored by Lazaros, one of the players currently approaching the end of their contracts. It must be said that between the game against Platanias and the cup game against Larissa, hes making a valid case for a contract extension.

Disappointing scoreline or not, it was yet another huge result with regards to our title chase. We’re currently two points ahead of PAOK, but keep in mind a court decision hasn’t yet been reached so we are still very likely to end up being further ahead than that.

The nicest part about the win in Crete against Platanias is that it sets us up to be in the position to win the league tomorrow, at home against Levadeiakos (assuming the court decision goes our way). With this in mind, AEK fans from across Greece, and indeed from across the world, have picked up tickets to the game with the hopes of seeing AEK clinch our first Championship since 1994. From what I’ve been reading, its looking like OAKA might actually sell out which would, as I’m sure we could all imagine, lead to a great atmosphere come kick off.

The Cup game was a rather tense one for me to follow online as with each passing minute, our chances of going through to the final were getting slimmer and slimmer. As the 90th minute approached and the officials signaled for 5 minutes of extra time, it became increasingly clear the some kind of “miracle” was needed for us to get that crucial goal which would put us through to the final. Of course, who other than Lazaros would find a way to get the winner, and with yet another gorgeous goal.

The goal was the talk of Greece the next day, and rightfully so as it was a beauty. It sets us up for a final against PAOK for the second year in a row and all I can hope for is that the result isn’t as disappointing as last year’s result was.

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:

AEK 3-0 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Panathinaikos, PAOK with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2018 by alexaek

The league finally started back up this weekend and AEK wasted no time getting back into their groove. Going into the match, its fair to say that I didn’t expect PAO to really trouble us much and, aside from a few scary moments at the start of the match, it was a game that went pretty much as I expected.

Before I go into a bit of detail about the game, its worth going over some news from earlier this week. The courts in Greece finally released their final decisions regarding the PAOK-Olympiakos match, and the PAOK-AEK match and while some may say that PAOK got off lightly (which I think they did), the news was overall pretty positive from an AEK perspective. Specifically, we were awarded the 3-0 win on paper after the fiasco involving Savidis and his gun after storming the pitch during our match against PAOK.

Bearing that in mind, along with our win today over PAO, we now find ourselves four points away from winning the league. Thats right, four points is all we need from our next four games against Platanias, Levadeiakos, Kerkyra, and Apollon. Three of those teams make up the bottom three of the standings and considering this has been one of our most successful seasons in recent memory, the championship is practically guaranteed to be ours as far as I’m concerned. Now obviously we don’t want to jump to any conclusions but its hard to not get excited about that. On top of that, we still have a pretty good chance of advancing in the cup, our stadium is making good progress, our basketball club has already won the cup and is close to a spot in the Champions League final four, all of that is making this one great season to be an AEK supporter all around.

Back to today’s game: it was a bit of a nervous start for us as PAO managed to create some chances early on. They even forced a huge save by Barkas that kept things even at 0-0 after Coulibaly managed to get a shot off from close range. Once things settled down though after about 10 minutes of play, it was mostly AEK from that point onwards. Araujo opened the scoring for us after yet another tremendous finish before Galo calmly put away a second goal for us. Araujo featured once again on the score sheet after scoring again to make it 3-0 and seal the win for us.

It helped our cause that PAO’s Insua received a red card in the first half but its safe to say that AEK were always going to be favourites against this PAO team. Araujo had an exceptional game once again, but Lazaros, Hult, and Galo also played great. On the other hand, I was a little concerned by Vranjes who at times seemed a little too relaxed in defense. Usually he’s extremely solid so I’m not too worried, but I feel like it was one of his weaker performances with AEK this season.

Our first goal is definitely the highlight of the match (and most likely of the week), but the other two goals were also very well taken. Its also worth keeping an eye out for Lazaros’ crossbar. If Lazaros had managed to score that, we would have had yet another contender for goal of the season from him.

Stadium Live Feed

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Jerseys, Nea Filadelfia with tags , on March 20, 2018 by alexaek

After many months of construction and many requests by fans on various AEK sites, we finally have a live stream (two, in fact) of the ongoing construction in Nea Filadelfia. It took a while but I must say that its been worth the wait. The quality of the two streams are outstanding and are in real time with seemingly no lag.

I was watching earlier on and the place was alive with workers all around. What was especially amazing was how late work was taking place. Even around 5 PM local time for me (which would be 11 PM in Athens) I saw workers taking care of stuff under the floodlights. They say the stadium should be built within a year and at this rate I might actually believe it.

The stream can be found here, but they can also be watched directly on YouTube: https://www.agiasofia.today

In other news (since we still don’t have any games to report on), I have something to report that may be of interest to any AEK supporters in England. England’s National Football Museum, located in Manchester, is currently displaying historic jerseys from around the world. One of the jerseys on display is an AEK jersey, specifically a jersey from the 1998-1999 season worn by Paris Zoubourlis. Its a beautiful kit, one of many beautiful jerseys put out by Kappa from the mid to late 90s.

jersey_zourboulis

More info on the museum itself can be found here: http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com

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.

pistol2pistol1

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…

PAOK Penalties Reversed

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Derby with tags , on March 10, 2018 by alexaek

You can never truly know what to expect when it comes to football in Greece. The morning of our game with PAOK in Toumba (literally the morning as the decision was made at 1 AM local time in Greece), PAOK was granted two of their demands after appealing the recent penalties inflicted on them due to crowd trouble before their game with Olympiakos.

What this means for us is that now we will play in a Toumba that will likely be packed rather completely empty as originally planned. Whether this will play in our advantage or not remains to be seen but PAOK will definitely be under pressure from their supporters as it is now them who are playing catchup with us.

On top of the reversal of the supporters ban, their 3 point deduction was also reversed. Had it stood, they would have been 5 points behind us before our game even started but as it stands now, they are only 2 points behind. It definitely puts more pressure on us as we now simply cannot afford to lose. A draw wouldn’t be the end of the world as PAOK have the slightly more difficult schedule for the remainder of the season, but this game really is a must win now. A win would put us 5 points clear with 5 games left to play (4 of which should, on paper at least, be fairly easy wins). Its safe to say that either way, our game with PAOK tomorrow is most likely the most important one we will play all season.