Archive for Europa League

AEK in the Round of 32!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , , on December 7, 2017 by alexaek

After finishing the group stages undefeated, AEK are in the Europa League Round of 32! Its worth remembering too that this was our first time playing in the group stages of a European Cup since before we fell to the 3rd division.

Management and the team both deserve credit for what they accomplished since even though we might not have won as many games as we would have liked, it was a solid performance in the group stages that even brought us close to beating Milan twice. The performance is especially impressive when you consider that we are the only team in our group not to lose a match after Milan’s loss to Rijeka today.

Today’s match which confirmed our progression to the next round was a 0-0 draw away against Austria Wien. Not entirely impressive on its own, but the team did well to do what they set out to do and come away with at least a point. There were some chances for both sides but it sounds like Wien rarely seemed likely to finish with a win.

Worth noting from the highlight reel below is Araujo’s chance in front of goal but also the open net missed by Wien when Tsintotas punched it straight at the opposition.

 

Of course, the hard part begins now. The draw for the next round takes place on Monday next week, and its safe to say that it could go either way. On the one hand we might be drawn against clubs like Villareal, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Lazio, or CSKA. On the other hand, we could get a little “lucky” and get drawn against a club like Red Bull Salzburg, Lokomotiv, or Viktoria Plzen. To be honest, none of the teams we could face will be easy, its just a matter of how hard it will be to get past. But hey, crazier things have happened and afterall, everyone thought Milan would easily walk through the group but we ended up giving them a run for their money both home and away. Regardless of how the draw goes, I couldn’t be more excited to see AEK in this stage of a European Cup again!

One last thing worth noting: without Olympiakos making it out of their group, we are the last Greek club standing. Aside from bragging rights, this also means we get a larger amount of the market share from UEFA which can only be a good thing.

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Another Catching Up Post

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on November 28, 2017 by alexaek

So I’ve been away from my computer for the past couple of weeks which accounts for the lack of posts recently. Having said that, its been a busy two weeks for the team, so I’ll go over whats happened on the pitch (and off it) in the time between now and my last post.

I’ll start with our derby against PAO two weekends ago. The game followed our 1-0 win against PAOK a week before and was a big test for the team as it was our first away derby of the season. Playing a derby away from home is never easy, but we had a decent chance here to get a result considering PAO’s poor form leading up to the match. Things didn’t get off to a great start however with PAO scoring only 10 minutes in to make the score 1-0. As has often been the case this season, we conceded from yet another set play when Moledo was left with an easy header into a mostly open net.

Thankfully, we would keep PAO at bay for the rest of the match and truth be told, they never really looked that much like scoring again from that point on. In fact, AEK were actually the better team, registering 8 chances compared to PAO’s 4, and controlling 55% of the possession. It might not have been our prettiest game of the season (in fact it was a pretty disappointing derby overall), but just before the final whistle was blown, we managed to get one back and level the score at 1-1. It was enough to salvage a vital point thanks to our goalscorer Marko Livaja (our most inform player this season).

As is often the case with derbies, this game also had its share of drama which mostly stemmed from one incident that occurred just off the pitch. Just as Jimenez was about to leave the pitch, he caught some kind of insult from the crowd that was directed at him. His response was to flash an obscene hand gesture back towards those hurling the insults, something which of course did not go unnoticed. This result of all this, aside from providing plenty for the radio stations and newspapers to talk about, was a 15 day ban for Jimenez to be served away from the bench. Not exactly what we would hope for when we’re desperately looking for all the points we can get…

Our draw in the Athens derby was followed by a Europa League match at home against Rijeka. The result? A second draw, this time by a score of 2-2. This match, like the match against PAO, couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start. We conceded early on from, you guessed it, another set piece. Two posts later and the score was 0-2 in favour of Rijeka just 25 minutes in. Our chance of clinching qualification to the knockout stages was quickly fading away unless we were able to muster a comeback like the one we managed against Olympiakos.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t mean to be as we ended up falling just short. By the end of the match we managed to even the score at 2-2 and also ended up having the better share of chances. We might not have managed to qualify for the next rounds just yet, but we still find ourselves in a decent position. A draw in the final match against Austria Wien will be enough to see us through, something which is very much possible assuming we manage to defend set plays better…

Our final match until now was one which had a happier ending than the previous two. After two draws in a row, we managed a win when we beat Platanias 3-0 in Athens. The match was preceded with the news that all proceeds from the ticket sales would be donated to the causes helping the flood victims in Greece these past two weeks recover, an initiative that was applauded by Platanias as well.

This game, despite being played without Jimenez on the bench and with both Mantalos and Simoes out injured, was always expected to result in a win for AEK. As expected, the team delivered. The stats are pretty impressive with AEK ending the match with 25 chances (11 of which were on goal) and 63% of the possession. Livaja opened the scoring and added a second goal in the second half with Bakasetas finishing up the scoring at the 63rd minute. While it took a while for us to get some chances, the result ended up being what was pretty much expected. What was more important than the result itself however is the fact that the win now puts us alone in 1st place after PAOK and Atromitos both drew over the weekend. We now sit 1st with 24 points followed by Olympiakos in 2nd with 23. Its tight, but its a slight edge which might go a long way when the season ends.

AEK 0-0 Milan

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by alexaek

Another game against Milan, and another scoreless draw. Would a win have been nice? Oh definitely, especially after watching the highlights and realizing we had more than our fair share of chances to score. Still though, there are some key points to take away from these past two games:

  1. We’re still undefeated, four games into the group stages. Thats a pretty impressive stat bearing in mind this is our first time in the group stages of a European tournament in years.
  2. We managed to prevent Milan from scoring in two straight games, including in their home stadium. Now I know Milan aren’t in the best shape form wise but still, considering their team costs in the range of 200-250 Million Euros (I believe that is more than all Superleague teams combined), its something to be proud of. If anything these past two games show that we have a coach who understands tactics and a team that knows how to implement it.
  3. Today’s game was a key one considering we were missing Mantalos. The game was a key test to show how we would handle the situation without him on the pitch and it seems like we managed to adapt fairly well. I’m sure we would have benefited from his presence, but we still managed to control the tempo for much of the game while creating some great scoring opportunities.

Two games still remain in the group stages but we’re in a decent position. Honestly I’d say that first place in the group is still up for grabs as well, if only slightly. This Milan team has looked shaky at best and with their current form, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Austria Wien or Rijeka manage to hold them to a draw in the last two games. If that were to happen and we were to win our final two games (unlikely but definitely possible), we would finish the Group Stage in first. Not bad at all for our first time back after an extended absence. Having said that, second place is definitely ours to take at this point. I’m sure we have at least another win and a draw from the final two games in store for us which would, I believe, seal at least second place.

As for today’s game itself, I was able to follow the commentary for much of it and from what I read it sounded like we played well. It seemed as though we had a plan, were able to stick with it and, most importantly, we weren’t able to attack. In fact it sounded like we were the stronger team throughout much of the match and after watching the highlights, I think that was confirmed. I was looking at some stats as well and I think throughout the first half, Milan had the ball in our box only twice and didn’t manage a shot until well into the match.

Equally impressive were our supporters. Its a shame we weren’t able to sell out like we did the last time Milan came to town, but reports say there were around 50,000 in attendance which is a pretty decent number. It definitely puts the low attendance figures for Milan in their home match against us to shame. Unfortunately there was an incident where some Milan fans were ambushed supposedly by AEK supporters. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I read that around 9 Milan supporters and 3 AEK supporters were injured but I don’t believe any of the injuries were particularly serious.

A win would have been nice, especially considering our chances, but I’ll take the draw. More importantly for us now is our match against PAOK this weekend. Its a huge match since a win will land us in 2nd place, two points over PAOK. In fact depending on how Atromitos fare with Panionios, we could even find ourselves in 1st by the end of the weekend.

 

Milan 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, Jimenez with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2017 by alexaek

Facing Milan in the San Siro is never an easy task, especially not against a Milan team that on paper looks to be stronger than in previous seasons. Today though, AEK showed no fear in what was the hardest match of the Europa League group stages and instead executed a game plan that stifled Milan and even lead to some good chances of our own.

Credit goes to many people, most notably Anestis who made a number of crucial saves to keep AEK in the game and within grasp of at least one point. He hasn’t been the most consistent keeper and we all know this, but today he proved why he deserves the starting role on this team. Of course it was also a team effort which led to the result and credit for this also goes to Jimenez. I’ve only managed to watch the first 15 minutes so far but from what I’ve seen and read, the team managed to execute a game plan which was able to contain Milan but also lead to considerable presence in Milan’s half. Sure we sat back a bit and expected to soak up some pressure but also managed to venture forward with confidence on a number of occasions. From what I could see we managed to dictate the tempo perfectly at times, something which was key against a Milan team who would have been looking to make a better impression after their loss to Inter over the weekend.

The result, aside from keeping our undefeated streak in the group stages alive, also gives a vital point in the standings. Its still close but 2nd place is definitely within reach and we still have two home games left. Currently Milan are in 1st with 7 points followed by AEK in 2nd with 5 points and Rijeka in 3rd with 3 points. Our next game is a home game against Milan and to be completely honest, theres no reason we can’t go for a win. We’ve beat Milan at home when they were the best team in Europe, so surely we have a chance against a Milan that is especially uninspiring at the moment. Even if we don’t get a win at home but instead manage another draw, we should still be able to beat Rijeka at home as well as Austria Wien away which would be more than enough to get us through to the next round.

It was an exciting game from start to end and while Milan had the bulk of the chances, we created a number of noteworthy chances of our own. Of note is our chance at the 40 second mark in the video below, easily the best chance of the game from what I can see.

The players naturally did their part, but our supporters deserve a special mention too. They were outsanding and the 4,000 of them in attendance managed to make the San Siro sound like Nea Filadelfia. All I could hear on TV while watching the first 15 minutes were AEK chants and it didn’t seem to end at any point during the game. I can’t imagine anywhere I’d rather be than in the stands with AEK supporters at a match like this..

 

Xanthi 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by alexaek

After our first loss of the season to Tripolis a couple weeks ago, its safe to say we were all hoping for a bounce back win to get our title push back on track. Well, all we got instead was a rather disappointing 1-1 draw. The point helps keep us within reach of PAOK as we only sit one point behind them in 2nd, but a win would have been just enough to keep us in 1st.

It was a frustrating game to watch to say the least, as the stats clearly suggest. Possession was 65% in our favour and we more than dominated in terms of creating chances: 4 for Xanthi and 18 for AEK (with 6 chances on target). Zivkovic was great in nets for Xanthi and it was just one of those days where the ball just didn’t want to go in the back of the net. It doesn’t help that Araujo clearly still hasn’t found some good form. I’m not sure if its the pressure of the expectations of last season, or if theres something else but I was expecting him to find some form by now. If he doesn’t find it soon we could be in trouble since hes naturally a big part of this team.

At the end of the day I can’t say I’m too surprised with the result. Xanthi is one of those towns along with Tripolis where we often seem to struggle. You just have to look back at our past games in Xanthi dating back to 2012 season and the results dont paint a very promising picture: One win, one loss, and four draws. All in all its not the end of the world for us just yet as we still have a three point buffer between us and Olympiakos, but we wont be this lucky for much longer. Olympiakos got their first win this weekend since the 26th of August but if past seasons are anything to go by, its only a matter of time until Olympiakos get back to winning form one way or another. We’ll also have to be weary of PAO who have managed to put together 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season and while they might not seem like a threat at the moment, they can’t be discounted quite yet.

 

As dissappointing as that result was, hopefully the team can put it behind them and focus on the upcoming match against AC Milan at the San Siro. We’ve never beat Milan away from home, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out to strong to make a good impression after their derby loss to Inter over the weekend. I know we have a good team, but I’m not expecting the three points here. Having said that, Rijeka managed to give them a hard time in Milan a few weeks ago, so perhaps they have some weakness we can take advantage of.

AEK 2-2 Austria Wien

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , on September 28, 2017 by alexaek

Not the result we were all hoping for considering the form we were in coming into the game, but all things considered it isn’t all that bad either. Milan’s narrow 3-2 win against Rijeka today means we’re still somewhat comfortably in 2nd place, 2 points behind Milan and 3 ahead of Wien.

Without having seen the game, it seems as though there are a few important points to highlight from the game:

  • The team were clearly tired. Its understandable considering the effort they gave during the game against Olympiakos. The pace was almost relentless that game aside from a few spells where it died down so naturally not everyone might have recovered fully in time for this game. Its unfortunate, but hopefully it won’t be as big an issue when we play a European game following a non-derby league game.
  • We had our chances. Overall we had 23 attempts, 11 of which were on target. Sounds much like the game against Olympiakos in fact. Its nice to know we’re creating chances and its only a matter of time until we get better (or luckier) at converting them. It didn’t help that Pentz, the Wien keeper, had an amazing night in goal.
  • Ajdarevic failed to impress yet again. This might come as no surprise now but its becoming increasingly clearer that he doesn’t really have a spot in the team. I’m hoping once Kone and Giakoumakis are match fit that maybe we’ll see less of him. Its unfortunate but every time hes on the pitch he contributes very little to the team. From what I’ve heard it was essentially as though he wasn’t even on the pitch. AEK365 even went as far as giving him a 2 out of 10 rating. Ouch…
  • Our attacking core is looking great. Mantalos, Lazaros, Livaja, and Araujo seem to be linking up together very nicely and the number of quality chances they’ve created lately suggests just that. What I especially like is the fact that any one of them can be dangerous on any given day.

Unfortunately we did see some injury scares today with Cosic going down early and being forced to be subbed off. I haven’t read yet how serious it is yet but I’m hoping he wont be out for long. We’re already stretched thin with our centre backs and considering its only a matter of time until Vranjes gets a red in the league, I can only hope he wont be out for too long.

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Catching Up…

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2017 by alexaek

Its been a few weeks since my last post and as is often the case early on in a season, lots has happened. Luckily for us, things have been going pretty well so most of what I have to talk about is good news.

PAS Giannena 0-0 AEK

We’ve played three games since my last post, the first of which was a disappointing draw away against Giannena. I was only able to follow this game from the radio but in the end I think I was glad I didn’t watch it on TV. It wasn’t an awful game… after all, we didn’t lose. The game did leave a lot to be desired though with neither team managing to really make much happen. The good news though is that we weren’t really outplayed that much.

To be fair the game was only three days after our match against Club Brugge so I could see fatigue playing a part. On top of that there was probably a lot of pressure on the team to put in another good performance as they did against Brugge and perhaps they struggled to deal with those expectations. Its early in the season and we’re still figuring things out so I’m not too worried about the result.

AEK 4-0 Larissa

Our next game was a home game against Larissa, the third Superleague game of the season for us. The score was impressive but our performance was anything but. We seemed uninspired and the tempo of the match was more like what would be expected from a training session.

Thankfully we were rewarded with some goals, a couple of which were particularly impressive. I don’t know if its the fact that we were playing against a team that was clearly not going to be hard to beat, or if it was the empty stands for yet another game (I believe we have one more game with no fans before we are allowed to let them watch again), but there didn’t seem to be much urgency within the team. Thankfully though they managed to get the job done at least since we needed to make up for the points dropped from the previous match. Whats worth noticing with this game is that this is the first time since the 2007-2008 season that we have started the league and have not conceded in our first three games. The 2007-2008 season was also the season when we should have won the championship, so thats promising.

 

Rijeka 1-2 AEK

Our Europa League group stages campaign got off to an excellent start after 2-1 away win in Croatia. As the score suggests, the game wasn’t a blow out and both sides had there chances to add to their tallies. Ultimately though it sounds like AEK were the stronger team. One thing worth mentioning is Lazaros’ goal was a beauty. It sounds like Lazaros wasn’t even supposed to take the free kick that resulted in the goal but he stepped up and took it anyways, silencing anyone who was not expecting him to be able to score it.

Its still very early as there are another five  games to play but the talk is that AEK is looking likely to finish second in the group. I don’t want to jinx anything but I’d say our chances look pretty good. Having already won an away game and considering we’re in pretty good form, I’d say the home games against Austria Wien and Rijeka will quite likely result in wins and the away game to Wien is also one that could very well result in a win for AEK as well.

Looking Forward

We play tomorrow against Lamia in a game which I’d say we have a pretty good chance of winning. Doing so would put us comfortably in 1st place as Olympiakos only managed a 1-1 draw against Tripolis today (in their own stadium!) so a win would see us 1st on 10 points, two ahead of Olympiakos and PAOK. We’ll certainly face a boost as though we are playing “away” against Lamia, the game will be played in Athens and AEK supporters will be allowed in the stands effectively making it a home game for AEK. This will be the first time this season that our players have played against our fans so I’m sure its something the team is looking forward to.

Personnel Changes

We have seen some personnel changes both on and off the pitch since my last post. I’ll start with the behind the scenes chances: Majstorovic has left his post as director to take up a similar role with Wolverhampton. It sounds like Majstorovic and the team parted ways under good terms and its worth noting that I believe Majstorovic waited until his contract with AEK was over before he switched to a different team. Its a good opportunity for him so I don’t blame him for taking it, but its also a good opportunity for us since it means a place has opened up for Limberopoulos again. I’m glad to see Limbe back with AEK again since hes the kind of person who everyone expects. Its a good time for him to be at AEK, so hopefully his second stint in the position brings some memorable success.

We also saw some more changes on the pitch was. Firstly, Almeida has left the team and joined Hajduk Split. I’m glad he found another team since he definitely still has something to offer, but I dont think AEK or even Almeida himself would have been happy with his output while with us. Its a good move from the team since it frees up some space and budget which means the long awaited news we’ve wanted to hear all summer could become reality. Thats right, Araujo has rejoined AEK on a year long loan from Las Palmas. I know AEK wanted to sign him outright rather than keep him on another loan, but its a great move regardless as he was clearly a good fit for AEK under Jimenez. He got off to a great start scoring in his first game back with the club and while he hasn’t played as a starter yet, its only a matter of time until he is fully integrated back into the team again.