A point from the first derby for our new coach is not a bad result at all, even if we could have come away from this game with all three points. Considering he has only had two practice sessions to get familiar with the players, he did a fairly decent job in my opinion, even if I personally would have liked to have seen a couple different changes. We were set up pretty well defensively but it was our midfield set up which allowed us to keep the game from getting out of our control. The pressure we applied throughout prevented PAO from ever getting really comfortable in the middle of the pitch both when attacking and defending, forcing them to attack from the wings quite often (something which they weren’t too good at today). When they did manage to get an attack to end up in the center of the pitch, they were only ever able to get an effort on goal via long shots, shots which very rarely threatened us except for one shot from Berg which hit the cross bar.
Offensively, we were able to get the ball to transition quite quickly, with Johansson, Simoes, Barbosa, and Galo doing well to move the ball around and control the centre and the wings. Unfortunately though, we were clearly lacking in the final third of the pitch, with Chrisantus not providing the attacking options that he should have and Vargas not being dangerous enough aside from a couple chances.
I’ll have a go at some of my own player ratings for today’s game. For once in as long as I can remember, I had a stream which did not skip or cut out once for the entire match so I was able to get a good sense of how we were playing.
Baroja: He was solid, positioning himself perfectly and making the saves he had to. Could not ask for any more from him really, did the job he had to and did it with confidence. Definitely something we were missing last year with Anestis.
Galo: Provided a lot of energy to the match, did well offensively and defensively. He did make some mistakes, but his pace meant he was often able to make up for them. He also came close on a free kick.
Lambropoulos and Kolovetsios: They were both pretty solid in the back, stopping PAO from getting too close to our net whenever they had the chance. They were decent on the set plays and generally managed to handle whatever PAO had to offer. Had this been a stronger PAO team, perhaps things would have different, though that would be impossible to tell. Either way, a solid centre back pair that Poyet should definitely consider sticking with.
Didac: Also did a pretty good job defensively and offensively. He didn’t have as much to work with defensively as PAO had fewer attacks come down our left wing, and he also did not provide the kind of runs that Galo would, but he still ventured forward and offered support whenever needed. He did make a few mistakes though.
Johansson: WIthout him, this may have been a very different game. I know I’ve said this before, but he is without a doubt one of the best singings we’ve made in the past three years. Always such a calm and assuring presence in the middle of the pitch, he is able to win balls well and hold on to them until the right pass can be made. He doesn’t stand out the way a player like Barbosa or Simoes does, but I would say his contribution to our performances is possibly more important than any other player on the pitch.
Simoes: He had a good game, though I’m not sure I would give him the 9 out of 10 that AEK365 gave him. He linked up well with the rest of our midfield and provided options and runs when needed.
Vargas: Had a phenomenal chance early on, but he seemed to be quiet for large periods of the game. In fact, I often saw Chrisantus coming back to link up with our central midfielders often when Vargas was nowhere to be found.
Mantalos: Had some very good runs and was key to any attack we had down the left, but unfortunately his crosses and set play deliveries were very poor today. What makes Mantalos such a critical player is the way he can get balls into dangerous places so well, and when he isn’t doing that as was the case today, the whole team suffers. I know he can do better, and I’m confident he will in our next game, assuming the injury he picked up today does not turn out to be too serious.
Barbosa: Probably the best attacking player for us today, showing a lot of ambition going forward. His effort was unfortunately more often than not wasted as we had no attacking presence in front of the PAO goal, but he was involved whenever he could have been and with a solid striker or two, he can end up being one of our most important players. Unfortunately, he was not linking up well with Chrisantus today.
Chrisantus: I’ve heard a lot of negativity towards Chrisantus, though I still have to say that I disagree. Is he my first choice for striker? Of course not, but with the way we played today, it hardly mattered what strikers we had up front. With so few good balls being played into the box, there was only so much he could do. It got to the point where he was playing deeper and deeper into midfield as the game progressed, looking to help create something up front. His presence in the box on set plays was not the best, but neither were the balls being played in so again I don’t feel like he is to blame. He will definitely need to calm down when he was possession though. Far too often he looks uncomfortable and nervous when he has the ball, and it was definitely a reason he was making so many poor passes. I truly believe that if he learns to calm down a bit when he’s playing, he can be a very effective player upfront.
Overall, neither team looked very dangerous. Overall PAO created the better chances, but there were spells when they were non-existent such as when they lost Lagos to injury early on. We had our chances to, but as with PAO none of the chances we created were very convincing. In fact, if it were not for PAO’s cross bar, I would say that both teams were equally dull offensively. As far as midfield is concerned, we were able to take control with far more confidence than PAO, but I would have to say that PAO overall played a better defensive game than we did, but only slightly.
It was an unfortunate result since a stronger AEK would have taken this game with ease. But the reverse could also be said about PAO. If they had the teams they had in the past, I would have to say that they would have walked all over us. Its unfortunate that both teams are so weak compared to what they used to be because if that were not the case, Olympiakos’ lead at the top of the table would have been far smaller at this point.
In terms of coaching, as I mentioned above I felt that Poyet had us set up quite well. Possibly the only thing I would have done differently (and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way) would have been to put Buonanotte in far earlier. I possibly also would have taken Mantalos out earlier and put Platellas on to replace him. Poyet’s decision to put Cordero one however was a very good one since it was a move that allowed us to keep our control of the midfield at a time when it was starting to slip away from us.
Surprisingly, I felt the ref had a pretty good game. It was a pretty high contact game but he made the right choices for the most part as far as calling fouls, and he stayed away from the cards when he was able to. It was quite refreshing actually to see a derby played where the ref wasn’t a key factor. The same can’t be said for Olympiakos’ game with Veria yesterday, but what else is new…
At the moment, the only highlights I can find are on NovaSport’s site here: http://aek365.novasports.gr