It wasn’t the easiest of wins for us today as Iraklis proved to be quite determined for a goal, but we managed to do enough for a 0-1 win. Of course, this now puts us at 9 wins out of 9 games so far in 2016, a stat which I find reassuring going into four very difficult league games.
Today’s win was very much a formality as we almost all but guaranteed our progress to the next round, but I was glad Poyet took the time to give our new signings some playing time. Zuculini started the match and from what I read did a pretty decent job for his first appearance of the season. Generally, we were holding back quite a bit in the first half so there were only so many opportunities for him to get involved but judging from the commentary I was following, he looked promising every time he was involved with a play.
Pekhart also got some time on the pitch, though he came on as a sub for Buonanotte later in the match. Hard to say how he looked since he came on so late, but hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him this weekend.
Our only goal was scored by Mantalos, the second goal in a row for him now. The finish was well taken but what really made the goal one worth watching is the passing that led up to it. Its the kind of passing that I feel really highlights why we’ve been doing so well under Poyet. Both Buonanotte and Djebour, the two involved with setting up the goal, took the extra second to seek out the better pass rather than simply passing the ball forward and hoping it leads to a chance. If we can play like this against Olympiakos and PAO, we can definitely do some damage.
Unfortunately, we did not really manage to make our mark on the game despite creating some chances, though its understandable. We had the game wrapped up before it started and we have some big games coming up so I understand if Poyet wanted the team to take it easy and not go all out if they didn’t have to. It was too bad to see Soiledis be subbed off so early though with what seems to be a pulled muscle.
We finally got to see Baroja return to action as Poyet decided to give Anestis a well earned break, and I found this promising to see. It gives me the impression that Poyet really does take Anestis seriously and considers him an option for starting keeper, something I was worried wouldn’t happen.
All in all we got the result we needed and we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals of the cup. Still to early to tell who we’ll be facing in the next round as the draw isn’t until next week, but there’s definitely the possibility we could be facing either PAOK, PAO, or Olympiakos. At this point I can’t see Olympiakos not making it to the final and even though I don’t want to get ahead of myself, there’s nothing I would love to see more than us get our revenge against them in the final. We’ll find out for sure either way at the draw next week.
Highlights for the game can be watched below: