Archive for Basketball

AEK 1-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, football with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2017 by alexaek

I’ve met many people throughout my relatively young life who simply were not into sports. One thing I often hear from some of these people is that they don’t understand the point of supporting a team, of spending so much of your time and energy towards a team, when you know the chances of ever winning a championship are relatively slim. To be honest, they’re probably right, especially when you support a team in Greece. Look at us AEK supporters for example: sure we win a cup here and there, but we haven’t won a championship since 1994, over 20 years ago.

So why do we show up at the stadium every weekend? Why do AEK supporters in Australia wake up at unimaginable times in the middle of the night to watch the team? Why do those of us in North America interrupt our Sundays to watch an AEK team that we know will not win the championship most of the time? The answer is simple really: its days like today that keep us going, 23 years after our last championship.

Now its not only the fact that we beat PAOK that made this particular Sunday so rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, that was a huge win and I’ll get into why it was in a bit but it was what happened before the game against PAOK that really made this Sunday such a satisfying one for us AEK supporters. Only a couple hours before our triumph on the pitch, we also triumphed on the courts, beating PAO 73-69 to secure our spot in the Basketball Cup Final for the first time in 17 years.

Not much to complain about right? I”ll start with the basketball game since that took place first. We all know that AEK was once one of the best basketball clubs in Europe but for the past decade and a half, PAO and Olympiakos have been undeniably stronger than us. They’re the better teams, its as simple as that, so to beat either of them is a pretty big deal for us. But to beat PAO in the semi finals of the Cup is a huge deal. The fact that it was a close game throughout makes it even more satisfying though I’ll admit that I was afraid we would let the win slip in the end. Luckily we managed to hold on and win, thanks especially to a 25 point 4th quarter which was enough to down PAO in the end.

The Cup Final will take place on the 17th of February (how am I supposed to wait that long???) and will put us up against Olympiakos. The last time we played in the Cup Final? 2001, the year we won it against PAO. It will be a very tough match and Olympiakos will be favourites without a doubt, but I have no doubt that AEK will be up for the challenge.

 

Now before I continue onto the match against PAOK, I have to point out that it wasn’t all good news. Shortly before the match was due to begin, we saw crowd troubles yet again at OAKA, resulting in tear gas for a second time this season. I’m not certain of the details, but from what I could make out on the radio it sounded like it had something to do with security/the police, and the number of fans trying to make their way into the grounds. Again, I’m not sure what exactly happened and what started it all, but I did hear that there were some scuffles between supporters and cops, and that a decent amount of tear gas was released just outside the gates. I haven’t learned of any injuries or arrests, but I do know that the amount of tear gas released was enough to cause the delay of the game by a few minutes until the atmosphere was able to clear out a bit. Unfortunately, it sounds like we might see more punishment as a result of what happened. Almost definitely a fine, and quite likely a ban for our fans from at least one match. All I’m hoping for at this time is that we don’t see a point deduction.

As for the match itself? Well, the excitement carried over to the pitch as well. Only 8 minutes into the match and we saw a red card to Araujo after he shoved Zambrano to the ground. Was it worthy of a red card? Absolutely, but I feel that Zambrano should have gotten a red as well for shoving Araujo prior to Araujo’s shove. The only difference between the two shoves? Zambrano decided to theatrically fall to the ground.

Going a man down that early was worrying, but for some reason I was never too nervous. Araujo has been fairly quiet afterall (maybe this will “wake him up”a bit), plus I figured this would just make a goal against PAOK even more satisfying.

Our goal did eventually come despite playing a man less, with Livaja tucking away a Simoes cross in the 25th minute. We needed some luck on the goal after the ball took a favorable deflection on its way to Simoes, but a goal is a goal in a derby, regardless of how they come.

The playing field leveled itself shortly after, when Zambrano received a second yellow for an obvious challenge. Its safe to say that it was only a matter of time until PAOK received a red as they had been playing some dirty football up to that point (I would expect no less from them though).

From that point on it was a fairly scrappy match with a few chances for either side and many dirty tackles in between. PAOK had their fair share of chances, but it was obvious they were unlikely to score. They definitely put the pressure on but they were anything but clinical in front of our net. Its worth noting that once all was said and done, PAOK had 6 yellow cards and 2 reds. Sound like a derby to you? I’d say so.

Not the prettiest match, but the team did well to come away with the 3 points. We have to keep in mind that we lost Araujo early, we were playing withouth Mantalos, and we were coming off a tough match against Milan. Not easy conditions to play under at all, but its reassuring to see that this team can adapt do whats needed to get results one way or another.

Derbies are always important, but this one carried some extra importance with regards to the standings. As a result of the win, we now move up to 1st place, tied on points with Atromitos. Atromitos technically have the edge due to the fact that they beat us earlier in the season, but its still a great place to find ourselves 10 matches. Were not clear yet since even though we currently have 20 points, PAOK are just behind us on 18 followed by Olympiakos with 17.

 

We have two weeks off until our next game so that Greece can play its World Cup qualifier against Croatia but we’ll be back in business against PAO, at their stadium. To be honest, this is probably the most confident I’ve been in a while about our chances of sneaking away with a win at Leoforos. PAO are an extremely unpredictable team but for the most part they’ve been pretty poor this season. If we’re going to beat them in their own home, this is our chance.

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A Return to Better Days

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Greek Cup, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2017 by alexaek

If you’re reading this, you probably noticed that I never wrote anything about our 2-1 loss to PAOK in the Cup final. Really it came down to not wanting to write anything since that game was a disaster from before kickoff. It started with the terrible organization, with the game almost being cancelled since the seats didn’t have numbers on them. Then came the fighting between “supporters” within the stadium as well as outside of it. Of course we had the game itself, which was a disappointment on every level thanks to our awful performance and the offside game winner for PAOK.

Overall, not the kind of final I was hoping for. Certainly not the kind of final that will be remembered fondly throughout Greece by fans of the sport aside aside from the PAOK fans.

Thankfully, we were able to somewhat put all that behind us with not one great result, but two. It started with our basketball team managing, after nine years, to finally beat PAO. Even better, the win tied up our semi-final series with them at one game apiece. It was a tight game until the end, as many of our derbies have been this season, but a huge win regardless which gives us enormous momentum heading into the third game. The win only ties the series and we still have plenty of work to do, but to finally get past this hurtle and win a game against our cross town rivals shows that its definitely possible. Will it be enough to get us to the finals? Well I hate to say that PAO are still favourites but at this point nothing is guaranteed anymore.

The day only got better from that point on as we headed north to take on PAOK for the first round of the playoffs. We clearly came out seeking to make a statement after the loss to PAOK in the cup and for the majority of the first half we were easily the stronger team. As the commentator on the radio put it at one point, AEK seemed like the home team as we outplayed PAOK throughout the pitch. The breakthrough came early on as Didac, who had a great game along with most of our defense, latched on to a perfect ball from Mantalos and neatly tucked in the finish. His goal would prove to the deciding factor as neither side would find a way to score from then on, but there were certainly chances.

The game was a great way to put everything from the cup behind us as not only does it get us a huge three points away in Toumba, but it puts us first in the playoff table after Panionios and PAO tied earlier in the day (though Panionios were unfortunate not to come away with the win). Its still early but to already find ourselves in first after starting with fewer points than PAOK and PAO is the best outcome we could have hoped for after the first round of playoffs. Our next match is at home against Panionios, a game I feel like we should comfortably take, while PAO host PAOK in Athens. I could personally see that game going either way as PAO will be seeking to get some revenge of their own after being knocked out of the cup while PAOK will be looking to recover lost ground after losing, not to mention they’ll also be out to prove that they were legitimately the better team against PAO in the cup semi-finals.

 

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 2-0 Asteras Tripolis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , on January 23, 2017 by alexaek

Good start for Jimenez

As I mentioned in my last post, rumours were floating around saying that Manolo Jimenez was on his way to Athens for his second stint in charge of AEK. The next day, those rumours turned out to be true as Jimenez signed a contract which will keep him with the team until at least the end of the season.

Thankfully for both Jimenez himself as well as the team, the Spaniard’s first game in charge ended with a comfortable 2-0 win over a team that has given us a hard time these past couple seasons. Goals from both Pekhart and Mantalos (both now have five goals this season) were enough to seal the win though by all accounts it sounds like it was a solid team effort all around. Even players like Simoes and Johansson, players who have been having mediocre seasons compared to what we’ve come to expect of them, turned up and played a phenomenal game. In fact, Johansson ended up with the MVP award for the game, something which I pretty much felt he deserved every game last season compared to the current season.

I’m not sure if its just because of the change, or if Jimenez has already managed to bring some positive change to the team. I feel like theres definitely something about Jimenez that can really give the club a boost for the rest of the season: hes passionate, he knows the team, and he has some solid experience. On top of that, I feel like he would be a much more motivating figure in the dressing room than someone like Ketsbaia was.

Apologies in advance for the poor quality highlights, they were all I could find on YouTube from the game.

Comfortable win for basketball team as well

Our basketball team played earlier in the weekend against Apollonas Patras and came away from the game with a convincing 88-69 win. As has been the case for most of the season, the win means we still sit comfortably in third, one point behind PAO and two behind Olympiakos.

Busy Day for AEK

Posted in AEK, Basketball, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2017 by alexaek

Bad news first…

We played a league game today against Panaitolikos on a pitch that resembled a swamp more than anything else. How we were allowed to play on that pitch when the ball barely rolled at all is beyond me, but the game went ahead regardless.

The final result? A 3-2 loss. Surprised? I’m not. Its embarrassing that its gotten to the point where I half expect us to lose. And not without reason either. We haven’t won an away game since the 10th of October, when we beat Larissa 2-1. We haven’t even won a home game since the 10th of December, more than a month ago…

I didn’t watch the match and I’m not exactly upset that I didn’t. From what I read it sounded as though Barkas made some tragic mistakes after playing the game of his life on Sunday. Some other things worth noting from the game include the fact that Almeida finally scored again and that two of the goals scored for Panaitolikos were scored by our former player, Grigoris Makos.

What was probably more noteworthy from the game was what happened afterwards, when Morais announced at his press conference that he was leaving the team. Thats right, another coach gone.

His departure was quickly confirmed by the club a little while after, around the same time that rumours began circulating that Manolo Jimenez was ready to take over. Jimenez is, of course, the same coach who was in charge when we won the Cup a few years ago.

How do I feel about all of this? Well of course it isn’t confirmed, but at this point I’m kind of indifferent. I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t expect much from the club this year so if Jimenez is the guy who can miraculously turn things around, great. If not, I’m sure things can’t be any worse than they are now.

Time for some good news.

We played against Partizan for the final match of the Basketball Champions League group stages today. Our qualification to the next round was guaranteed before the match started, but a win against Partizan would have cemented 2nd place for us. Key three pointers by players such as Ukic (yet again) ensured that we left Belgrade with the win and 2nd place clinched. 69-65 was the final score which meant that though we had a similar record to a few other clubs in the group, we clinched second due to a better record among those teams tied for second.

What happens from this point on all depends on who we face in the next rounds, meaning clinching 2nd was all the more important as it allows us to face an easier opponent. I’m not sure yet who we might possibly face but I would say that aside from a few teams, there isn’t anybody who we couldn’t be competitive against. I can’t say how far we’ll make it in the tournament, but I feel pretty good about our chances of at least making it to one more round. From then on, who knows. All I know is that after all this time, it feels great to see an AEK basketball team that is competitive in Europe once again.

PAOK 71-78 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Players, Basketball, Derby, PAOK with tags , , , on November 12, 2016 by alexaek

An extremely important win for AEK in the league today, one which saw us struggle but ultimately show the character needed to come away from Thessaloniki with the win. Seeing as we had yet to play a derby until today, this match was one of our first major tests and though it wasn’t always smooth sailing for us, the team did well to do what was needed to keep our perfect start to the season.

Dixon was one of the standout players for us with 22 points including a crucial 3 pointer towards the end of the match to seal the win for us. Ukic also, unsurprisingly, had a great game with 16 points to his name. We trailed for most of the match and despite closing the score down a few times, it wasn’t until the 3rd period where we were finally able to go in front after a 12 point run. PAOK managed to keep the score close from that point on but we never relinquished our lead and managed to hold on despite a nervous final few minutes.

It must be said that despite the win, today’s performance was not among our best this season. To be fair, playing against PAOK up north is never easy and Vaseiliadis, a lifelong PAOK supporter who has never played against them at home, was clearly struggling.

Highlights can be seen here: http://aek365.novasports.gr

Well That Was Painful…

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC with tags , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2016 by alexaek

AEK 2-2 Atromitos

So far this season we have played four games at home for the league. These games were against respectable but seemingly beatable opposition: Xanthi, Iraklis, Panionios, and Atromitos. Aside from the first game, when we beat Xanthi 4-1, what do the last three home games have in common? They all ended in draws..

While a draw at home against a weaker team is never easy to swallow, today’s draw was really something else all together. I didn’t watch it (thankfully?), but the game got off to a phenomenal start with Mantalos scoring early. We played well from that point on and though Atromitos had some chances, it was finally looking as though the team was finding some confidence. We were rewarded for playing so well when Patito added a second for AEK with a beautifully placed shot that left the keeper with no chance.

At this point I was pretty happy. It sounded like we were playing well, we were so close to grabbing a crucial three points, and it started to look as though we might have just found some good form heading into our derby with PAO two weekends from now… Ah but this AEK were talking about after all. If this team has been consistent with one thing all season, its the fact that we so often find a way to make things more difficult for ourselves.

At around the 72nd minute I looked at my phone to check the score and I see that Atromitos had scored to make it 2-1. I wasn’t worried at this point, although I realize now that was a mistake. A few minutes later I check again expecting to see the same score, or even possibly 3-1 for AEK but instead I see 2-2. Surely I think to myself “we couldn’t possibly have let a 2-0 lead vanish at home?” but then I read AEK365’s description of the second goal and it all makes sense. Yep, another completely avoidable error by Anestis.

Coming into this season I had no problem with us keeping Anestis as our starting keeper. Sure he made some very costly errors the years before but he had finally started to show some maturity with his playing. I felt as though he might have been learning from his mistakes, improving his decision making, that sort of thing. Then Atromitos’ second goal today makes me have to question all of that. The goal he let in simply should not ever have happened. Not in a friendly, not in a Cup game where we were winning by a few goals, and certainly not in a league game where we have a fragile one goal lead and desperately need all the points we can get.

All in all I really don’t know what to feel about this game. Its a terrible result, but we did play quite well for 70 minutes. If Anestis never lets in that second goal and we finish the game with a 2-1 win, there would be a very different mood among the team and the supporters back in Greece. Instead, we now go into an extremely difficult derby with the fans doubting the team and perhaps the team doubting itself.

It has to be said that Anestis does not deserve all the blame (well, maybe he does). Afterall all the hype that surrounded Almeida after the first goal this season, what exactly has he done to contribute to the team this season? I want to see him succeed as much as anyone, but it sounded like he missed goals today that he really should not be missing. He is not a cheap player to keep on the team and I can’t help but feel as though perhaps there might be some young Greek talent out there that we could have on the team in his place at times. Experience helps, but it can only go so far when it isn’t actually contributing to results on the pitch.

Well, thats my “rant” for the day. It didn’t help that the hockey game I was at today saw the home team I was rooting for (the Ottawa 67s) go up 2-0 only to lose the game… 2-5. Thankfully the score for AEK’s game today didn’t quite end the same way, but seeing a 2-0 lead quickly diminish in front of my eyes while the same thing was happening with AEK in Athens was not exactly how I was hoping to spend my saturday…

Highlights, as usual, on the Novasports site (worth watching for Patito’s goal… and the Anestis blunder if you want something to make you chuckle). http://aek365.novasports.gr

At Least Our Basketball Team is Still Doing Well

What would I do if the basketball team was in the same shape our football club is. Its never easy being an AEK supporter, but its nice knowing that the basketball team can go into almost any match and expect to be competitive.

Today’s match, which ended in a 80-62 win over Rethymno was our fifth win from five games so far this season. It was another crucial win and one which puts us in first, for now at least, with 10 points. Next weekend is a huge one for us as take on PAOK up in Thessaloniki. It won’t be easy, but I’m confident we can, if anything, give PAOK a run for their money. A win in Thessaloniki would go a long way in confirming that we are on the right track.