Archive for Araujo

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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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.

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…

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.

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.

AEK 1-0 Asteras Tripolis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer, Injuries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2018 by alexaek

After two straight wins against Olympiakos, AEK would have gone in to today’s game against Tripolis knowing the 3 points were anything but guaranteed. Sure enough, we had a much harder time today though I would argue a lot of that came from bad luck rather rather than having anything to do with the opponent we were facing.

Bearing that in mind, it didn’t help that Athanasiadis had what might have been one of the best games of his career in nets for Tripolis. What really made this match a struggle for us though was the inability of players like Araujo and Livaja to finish plays which they normally would have no problem scoring on.

It was absurd really, but the ball just didn’t want to go in. We had a lucky break when we were awarded a penalty (rightfully so I might add) which Lazaros was able to put away, otherwise I’m not sure we would have scored any other way. I still cannot wrap my head around what I saw from Araujo today. After scoring one of the nicest goals of the season earlier this week, there was nothing he could do today to get the ball in the net. Aside from missing a relatively easy header and having another post later in the match, his strangest miss came early on in the match. A simple cross in from Masoud was dangerously deflected by an Asteras defender and was heading right for the open net when Araujo inexplicably tried to kick the ball into the net. Understandable as he was just looking to guide it a little more but the result of his attempt was the ball hitting the crossbar and floating harmlessly away from goal. The worst part about the whole play is that had Araujo simply not even touched the ball, it would have gone in on its own without a doubt.

Its one of those plays thats simply too hard to even understand, but I suppose its forgivable considering what Araujo has done for us so far. To be honest I’d rather he miss today and get it out of his system, considering we got the win, if it means he’ll be having some better luck for our match against Dynamo Kiev in a few days time.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible match by any stretch. Tripolis are always a tricky opponent so any win is a win I’ll take, even more so considering Olympiakos’ draw against Atromitos earlier today. The good news from today’s game is that we’re now first, at least until tomorrow when that could change depending on PAOK’s result against Larissa. The bad news from today’s game though is that Kone had to leave the pitch shortly after coming on as a sub. He suffered a leg injury after recovering awkwardly from a challenge though its still not known the extent of the injury. Hopefully it won’t keep him out too long, as we’re already stretched thin as far as injuries are concerned.

Some positives from the match for me include:

  • Hult, our new singing from PAO, had a pretty solid start at left back today. The Swede, who was with PAO for two years and was arguably one of their better players recently, looked good overall defensively but was also able to contribute going forward on a few occasions. What I liked about his presence in the starting 11 today was that it allowed Bakakis to cover right back which gave Galo the opportunity to play as a right midfielder, a position that suited him as hes always been an offensively minded player.
  • Today’s match was our 22nd match undefeated in all competitions which I believe is a new record for the team. For more info on this run, check out this AgonaSport article here

As of now, this is how the top 5 of the standings looks:

standings

Still far too close for comfort, and I expect PAOK to get the win tomorrow. But hey, at least its exciting for once!