Archive for Europa League

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..

 

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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.

AEK 3-0 Brugge

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2017 by alexaek

Back in the Group Stages After Six Years

Its been six years since AEK last played in the group stages of the Europa League but that droubt will soon be coming to an end. After a dominant performance in Athens, AEK have confirmed their return and they made sure to make a statement with today’s match.

Reading the comments of supporters all morning leading up to the game, I could sense the optimism right away. From all accounts it sounds like the atmosphere in the stands was fantastic, as if the fans knew right away that there would be a happy ending to today’s match. Sure enough they weren’t disappointed as not only did we come away with the result we were looking for, but we did it in such a confident way. I was listening to the radio as I was walking home from work just after the game had finished and commentators had mentioned that this was possibly one of the more impressive displays they’ve seen from AEK in a European game.

Credit first of all has to go to Jimenez as it sounds like he got the lineup just right today. Defensively it sounds like we gave Brugge very little space and the lack of quality chances they had attests to that. Equally impressive was how we handled our attack as we were able to create numerous high quality scoring opportunities. Lazaros had a fantastic game which was capped off with his opening goal from the penalty spot. Simoes also had an equally great game with AEK365 going as far as giving him a 10 out of 10 rating. They say that this was possibly the best game of his career and I can see some reasoning behind the enthusiasm. Afterall, he scored two goals and was responsible for drawing the penalty that lead to our first goal.

Klonaridis and Mantalos were also extremely effective along with the rest of our attack but one attacking player who stood out even more was Almeida. Its been a while since we’ve seen a genuinely strong performance from him but today he seemed to give it his all as he set up some close calls and also came awfully close to scoring a goal or two himself. Its clear his technique and awareness on the pitch is still there if he choses to apply himself.

Overall the whole team deserves credit from what I’ve been reading. One commentator said its one thing to get the win but its another to go all out and continue searching for goals even after going a goal or two up. People online were worried at half time, noting that we had to be careful not to get too comfortable and to not give Brugge too much space, which was a very valid point. PAO were leading Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at half time last week and ended up losing 2-3. Having said that, not only did we not give Brugge too much space, but we continued to push forward and were rewarded with a third goal to all but seal the win.

Of course, its from this point on that the going really gets tough. Brugge were never expected to be an easy team, and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but what lies ahead is where things start to get interesting. The list of teams that we could possibly get drawn against from the first pool almost seems like a pool of teams for a Champions League draw. First pool teams include: Arsenal, Lazio, Milan, Lyon, Villareal, and Athletic Bilbao. Of course there are a few “easier” teams too but the majority of teams in the first pool are all names that would make most teams in Europe worry. Fortunately the second and third pool consist of teams who I think we should, on paper, be able to compete with. Everton is a possible team from the second pool and while they would be a tough match, I would love to see us get some revenge for the last time we played them. I remember living in Athens at the time and going to the game where we lost at home against Everton and one of my teachers at school was a big Everton supporter. He never let me forget it for a week… all I can say is that I would love to look him up if we do come across them in the group stages and manage to get a win.

The draw takes place tomorrow at 2:00 PM Athens time. I’m not certain but I believe a live stream is usually available for those who wish to watch it. If there is a stream, it would most likely be available on UEFA’s website.

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2017 by alexaek

It was a stalemate today in Brugge despite both teams coming close to scoring on a number of chances. Perhaps a disappointing result in terms of excitement, but its definitely a result which puts us in a good position to advance further in the Europa League. The result certainly doesn’t guarantee anything but starting on equal footing at home after a promising performance in the first leg sets us up nicely.

It was definitely an improved performance over how we played against CSKA based on what I’ve been reading and seeing in highlights. Even Anestis managed to have a solid outing despite some shaky games against CSKA in which his judgment left much to be desired. All in all it sounds like the entire team put in a good showing today aside from Klonaridis, though if I remember correctly I read an article which stated that he was playing with an injury.

As I was following the commentary it definitely seemed like we started strong. Unlike our matches against CSKA though, we were able to create some quality chances today. It was nice to see some creativity from the team too, something which goes to show that the chemistry might have improved considerably compared to our previous two matches. Jimenez even mentioned after the match that even though the team might still be lacking in a couple areas, they’re certainly playing with passion and grit.

Some nice highlights in the video below though my personal favourite would have to be that chance off the free kick right at the end. Had that managed to sneak in it would have been the perfect way to end a match. You’ll also notice during the highlights that Livaja got sent off in the 58th minute. I couldn’t see any legitimate cause for a second yellow and AEK365 seemed to feel the same way. Its unfortunate that we’ll miss him for the next match as he seemed to have played a good match today, but I’m sure Jimenez can work something out. Lazaros could start in his position next week or perhasps we can even see Giakoumakis being given a chance.

AEK 0-1 Saint Etienne

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , on August 4, 2016 by alexaek

I really thought we had a chance of winning this one, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. The team deserves credit first and foremost though; we went into this game as clear underdogs, if only because of our lack of European football in recent years. After the two games though, its clear that neither team really stood out as significantly better than the other as it was only one lucky goal which made the difference.

We didn’t have luck on our side for this match ever since the news broke out that Johansson might be missing the game. Late last night I read that the outlook for him had become more positive and there was hope he might just manage to be match fit for the game but in the end he wasn’t, and we suffered greatly without him on the pitch. To be honest, I don’t think Ketsbaia handled his absence and you’ll probably find most people saying the same thing. To try and fill the massive void left by Johansson, Ketsbaia started with Lambropoulos in the middle along aside Simoes. This clearly turned out to be a rather poor choice as the gap in midfield was a big part of why we struggled to get a rhythm going. I know many people have been saying that Tzanetopoulos should have started in Lambropoulos’ place but I’m not so sure we would have been any better off. I know Tzanetopoulos has played that position a couple times before, but that was against far easier opposition. It was just as big a risk with both players and considering Lambropoulos looked alright in pre-season friendlies, I can’t blame Ketsbaia too much for his choice.

Its unfortunate that we had to bow out of Europe so early on, especially when we had such a good chance of going through just before the game started. Dwelling on the past and thinking about what could have been can only get us so far though so I think its worth looking at some of the positives for the game. Though I only managed to catch bits of it, one player who absolutely stood out for me (again) was Chygrynskiy. He has been proving himself lately and today was no exception. I went to watch Roma play a friendly yesterday against Montreal and watching Chygrynskiy after watching Roma less than 24 hours ago really made me feel as if I was watching De Rossi again. I know De Rossi and Chygrynskiy play two different positions but the way they both handle things on the pitch, in a calm and no-nonsense kind of way, really stood out to me.

The other biggest positive I can take from the game is, yet again, our supporters. Considering the match was on a weekday and in the peak of the summer holiday season, it was a pretty respectable sized crowd. What made me even happier to hear though was how the team was applauded at the end of the match. At the end of the day, the team is still building and transitioning from the turmoil of the past four years and it makes me happy to see that now, when the team needs it most, our supporters are still for them. We might not have the strongest AEK we’ve seen in years, but we definitely have a decent team that can beat any other team in the league on a good day. Combine that with solid support throughout the season and I think we could be in for some great games.

Highlights from today:

And for anyone who hasn’t seen the match in France yet, you can catch it in its entirety here: