Archive for Lazaros Christodoulopoulos

A Busy Spring So Far

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Friendlies, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2018 by alexaek

Usually at this point, things are relatively quiet. Players are still on vacation, trade rumours are starting to pick up steam but not really amounting to anything, and more often than not we’re just left with the typical sports tabloid gossip.

Things have different this spring. In fact, it seems like every three or four days, another piece of news seems to surface which drastically affects the outlook for next season. I’ll try to recap the main highlights of the off-season so far, in order of significance:

  • The first piece of news worth mentioning happens to also be the most recent. Just a few days ago, Jimenez was supposedly given an ultimatum: accept AEK’s offer within 48 hours or the offer would no longer be valid. The 48 hours passed and it seemed like Jimenez was still no closer to signing with us. Instead, things started to change when he began suggesting that he was hoping to return to Spain rather than continue with AEK. This became evident when I woke up to the news that not only had Jimenez not accepted our offer, but we acted quickly to secure Marinos Ouzounidis for next season. It was kind of a shock, and a move that came out of nowhere for me, but I’m kind of happy about it. Afterall, Jimenez had already given us a Cup and a Championship after his two stints with the team, and he also brought us on a decent run in Europe. Realistically he gave us all he could and while I’m grateful for how he turned the team around, I think its fair that he was looking for a new challenge in Spain. On the other hand, Ouzounidis is an experienced coach in Greece, someone who seems down to earth and prefers to stay out of the spotlight, and a coach who in all fairness did pretty well to keep PAO afloat despite all the challenges they faced these past two seasons. I think if he continues to receive the backing that Jimenez received, he could do very well for us.
  • Lazaros ditched us and signed for Oly. This one also came as a shock to me though in hindsight, I guess it shouldn’t have since it sounds like hes left teams on bad terms in the past as well. The move didn’t make sense to me from his perspective: he had just finished possibly the best season of his career, with a championship winning team, and destined to play Champions League qualifiers next season with a chance at even making the group stages. Instead, he leaves that behind and goes to a team that can play Europa League at best and has a management group that is as volatile as ever. I guess the money was too good to say no to as far as he was concerned, but it makes you realize that loyalty just isn’t a concept that exists to certain players, especially when you become the first player in history to play for PAOK, PAO, AEK, and now Oly… He gave us some great moments, especially this season, but I would love to see the look on his face if AEK manages to finish higher than Oly yet again.
  • While those last two pieces of news were quite shocking, this one wasn’t quite as much. It was, however, a great move on our part: AEK agreed to pay the buyout clause for Livaja, set at 1.8 million Euros. Its not what I would call cheap, but I would call it a bargain considering how reliable he was for us this season. I can’t remember if a deal has been put in place between Livaja and the club but either way, its great to know that he is ours now, and theres no risk of him being snatched back by Las Palmas.
  • Araujo, on the other hand, has been all but confirmed to be going back to Las Palmas. This doesn’t surprise me really, as I was surprised we even managed to get him back on loan last season. He had a great season as well and definitely showed that he deserves a chance to feature more prominently with the Spanish side.
  • Despite Notingham Forest being interested in promising Greek striker Christos Albanis, AEK were able to secure him before anyone else could. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with him yet, but from what I’ve been reading it sounds like he should be quite the prospect for us. I guess we’ll start to see in the friendlies which should be taking place in about a month or so.

I think that pretty much covers the majority of what has been going on so far this offseason, but please do let me know in the comments section if I forgot anything!

PS: I’m wishing nothing but a speedy recovery for Salah! As someone who doesn’t have a country to cheer for at the World Cup this summer for the first time in my lifetime, I was really hoping to see Salah have a good run in the tournament. Huge shame what happened to him today against Madrid, but hopefully he makes it back in time. Hes proven himself to be a class act all season long and definitely doesn’t deserve to be on the sidelines after the season he has had so far.

 

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AEK 3-0 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Panathinaikos, PAOK with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2018 by alexaek

The league finally started back up this weekend and AEK wasted no time getting back into their groove. Going into the match, its fair to say that I didn’t expect PAO to really trouble us much and, aside from a few scary moments at the start of the match, it was a game that went pretty much as I expected.

Before I go into a bit of detail about the game, its worth going over some news from earlier this week. The courts in Greece finally released their final decisions regarding the PAOK-Olympiakos match, and the PAOK-AEK match and while some may say that PAOK got off lightly (which I think they did), the news was overall pretty positive from an AEK perspective. Specifically, we were awarded the 3-0 win on paper after the fiasco involving Savidis and his gun after storming the pitch during our match against PAOK.

Bearing that in mind, along with our win today over PAO, we now find ourselves four points away from winning the league. Thats right, four points is all we need from our next four games against Platanias, Levadeiakos, Kerkyra, and Apollon. Three of those teams make up the bottom three of the standings and considering this has been one of our most successful seasons in recent memory, the championship is practically guaranteed to be ours as far as I’m concerned. Now obviously we don’t want to jump to any conclusions but its hard to not get excited about that. On top of that, we still have a pretty good chance of advancing in the cup, our stadium is making good progress, our basketball club has already won the cup and is close to a spot in the Champions League final four, all of that is making this one great season to be an AEK supporter all around.

Back to today’s game: it was a bit of a nervous start for us as PAO managed to create some chances early on. They even forced a huge save by Barkas that kept things even at 0-0 after Coulibaly managed to get a shot off from close range. Once things settled down though after about 10 minutes of play, it was mostly AEK from that point onwards. Araujo opened the scoring for us after yet another tremendous finish before Galo calmly put away a second goal for us. Araujo featured once again on the score sheet after scoring again to make it 3-0 and seal the win for us.

It helped our cause that PAO’s Insua received a red card in the first half but its safe to say that AEK were always going to be favourites against this PAO team. Araujo had an exceptional game once again, but Lazaros, Hult, and Galo also played great. On the other hand, I was a little concerned by Vranjes who at times seemed a little too relaxed in defense. Usually he’s extremely solid so I’m not too worried, but I feel like it was one of his weaker performances with AEK this season.

Our first goal is definitely the highlight of the match (and most likely of the week), but the other two goals were also very well taken. Its also worth keeping an eye out for Lazaros’ crossbar. If Lazaros had managed to score that, we would have had yet another contender for goal of the season from him.

It Just Doesn’t End! (AEK 2-1 Olympiakos)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby with tags , , , , on February 7, 2018 by alexaek

For the 3rd time this season, Olympiakos have been outclassed in every way by an AEK team that seems to thrive when playing against our rivals. Today’s match, which sealed our place in the Cup Semi-Finals, was the 4th time we’ve played Olympiakos this season and ensured we remain unbeaten against them after winning 3 and drawing 1 (our previous Cup game against them which ended 0-0 in Karaiskaki).

Both our goals were pure class and will be remembered for ages. Not to take away from Lazaros’ goal which opened the scoring but Araujo’s goal to make it 2-0 was extra special. As others pointed out on-line, it was the kind of goal we would have seen from Demis back in the day and it further cemented Araujo’s role in our team and in the history books.

Thankfully we managed to avoid any crowd troubles, since we all know they would have been looking for any reason to call off the game as they had a few years ago. The game itself was one in which AEK took its time to find some rhythm. Once we did though, it became clear who was going to be the more likely winner. This seems to be the way we have approached many of our games with Olympiakos recently and it seems to have payed off well. Start slow, let them build a false sense of confidence, and then get into the game when they’ve relaxed and opened up.

Our first goal came courtesy of Lazaros who calmly headed in a perfectly placed cross from Bakakis. The goal, which came in 56th minute, was what we were all hoping for but it was the incredible goal by Araujo which sealed the deal less than 20 minutes later. In the 72nd minute Araujo was able to latch onto a ball thrown deep into Olympiakos territory and with one perfect touch from his chest set himself up for a beautifully taken volley. I would assume that when this season is done, that will be one of those goals we remember most, much like Cesar’s free kick against Milan and that long range shot from Liberopoulos when we beat Olympiakos 4-0 back in the 06-07 season.

Olympiakos did provide me with a bit of a scare when former AEK player Tachtsidis managed to pull one back. The former AEK midfielder had no problem celebrating a goal against his former club but it was AEK who had the last laugh after they managed to weather the storm of countless Olympiakos corners towards the end of the match.

 

I love when we beat Olympiakos but this is almost becoming too easy. I can’t remember the last team we dominated them this much. It goes further back than this season too: in the last 10 games against them, we’ve won 7 games and have lost only 2. But hey, I’m okay with this!

AEK 3-1 Kerkyra

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2017 by alexaek

After another weekend of wins for Oly, PAOK, and Atromitos, the pressure was on AEK again today to get a win. Sure enough, they delivered yet again and for another week remain on top. Its still a fragile lead, with only one point separating us and Oly, but as long as we keep getting results I can’t complain.

Today’s match went as expected against second to last placed Kerkyra, although Kerkyra definitely didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for after their keeper scored an own goal to open the scoring for AEK. It all happened in the 11th minute when Lazaros had two chances to finish from point blank range but it was instead the keeper who ended up getting the ball into the back of the net.

Kone continued the scoring, scoring his first goal with AEK in over ten years. And what a goal it was; a poor clearance by Kerkyra landed right at Kone’s chest who with some great control and a beautiful finish lobbed the ball right out of the keeper’s reach and into the net.

Araujo finished off the scoring for AEK after yet another poor clearance by Kerkyra’s defense ultimately landed at the Argentinian’s feet. Araujo, showing sings of what we came to expect of him last year, finished it beautifully with a one timer that left the keeper with no chance.

Kerkyra managed to pull one back but it was too little too late for them. The penalty that lead to their goal was questionable at best, but it was the only downside of what was another convincing performance by AEK.

Whats most impressive for me about our recent performances is that we’re consistently getting results without Mantalos and Johansson. Players like Klonaridis and Kone who earlier in the season weren’t showing as much promise as we expected are now proving to have rather considerable roles in the team. Even Araujo, who had a slow start to his season this year, is starting to find himself on the scoresheet more and more often. Its a good time for the team to find some form since it will only get tougher from this point on as the pressure increases. The only thing I’m weary about at this point is that with the Christmas break fast approaching, its a very real possibility that the break might affect our momentum. Of course, it might not affect us at all, but its always a risk when you’re away from the game for a while.

 

Today’s result wasn’t the only news for our football team today. Earlier in the day, the draws took place for who we would face in the Europa League Round of 32 and to be honest, I feel like it could definitely be worse. The luck of the draw paired us with Dynamo Kiev, Ukranian runners up last season. I’m not saying it will be an easy two matches by any stretch, but we definitely have more of a chance at getting a favourable result against them than say Atletico Madrid or Arsenal for example (even if both of those teams aren’t in great form in their respective leagues).

 

One last piece of AEK news worth mentioning comes from our basketball game yesterday. We played Olympiakos and considering our recent league form, I don’t think anybody was realistically expecting much of a result. Instead, what happened was something that hasn’t happened in 13 years: we won! 13 years since the last time we beat Olympiakos in Basketball, we beat them again with a score of 66-62. It was a tight game, and towards the end the lead was fluctuating between the two sides quite a bit.

Its been an interesting season for our basketball club. We’re in mediocre form (and thats being generous) in the league and we’re even worse off in European play, yet we’ve beat PAO and Oly within the span of about a month. Strange times indeed, but hopefully our recent switch of coaches will help after we hired Dragan Sakota as our coach for the third time in his career.

AEK 3-2 Olympiakos!!!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Derby with tags , , , , , , , on September 24, 2017 by alexaek

What a game! This is what derbies are all about. If there was any doubt prior to this game as to whether this team could legitimately challenge for the Championship, I think its safe to say that the doubt is now gone.

This game had it all. A great atmosphere, some great goals from both teams, some drama on and off the pitch, and one of the greatest AEK comebacks in recent memory. The excitement leading up to the match was huge, and the game lived up to it all.

Its worth remembering that this game wasn’t just about beating the most hated team in Greece. Winning this game means we now sit 5 points ahead of Olympiakos, alone in first place with 13 points.

All the talk leading up to the game was on the demand for tickets and while we might not have sold out OAKA, the crowd definitely made its presence felt. I don’t know the exact numbers but it looked like the crowd was anywhere between 35,000 to 40,000 strong.

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Its safe to say that nothing compares to the atmosphere of a derby. Photo from AEK365.com

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Photo from AEK365.com

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I thought the banner that originals made for today’s game looked particularly sharp. Photo from AEK365.com

 

As for the game itself, well, it was eventful. It had its ups and downs, it was unpredictable, and it was a very real reminder that this AEK team should be taken seriously by anyone who comes up against it. We started really well with plenty of pressure on the Olympiakos defense. It was clear from the get go which team wanted to win this game more and we had numerous chances early on to start the scoring early.

All the wind was taken out of our sails though when Olympiakos scored against the run of play. I’ll give Marin credit, his finish on the goal was real nice, but our defense fell asleep on that one. They should have been far more aware of the danger, especially considering that Marin is not a player to take lightly despite how Olympiakos might be playing. The first goal for Olympiakos came fairly early so we still had plenty of time to get back in the game, but we lost much of the momentum we built up earlier in the first half after they scored. We had our chances again but I started feeling like half time would be a blessing in disguise in the sense that it would give AEK a chance to regroup.

Unfortunately, any regrouping that might have been done during the break was quickly undone as Olympiakos scored again, this time just after the second half started. Again it was a pretty nice finish, but I feel like our defense could have done better then as well. To be fair to Anestis, there wasn’t much he could have done on either goal and he did make a huge save to keep us in the game earlier on as well.

Down 2-0, a lot of teams would have struggled to find a way back into the game. This AEK team is different though. Thankfully, we have a coach who knows how to read a situation well. At the start of the second half, he subbed on Livaja for Klonaridis, a move which proved to be critical. Klonaridis struggled to make any impact for the most of the game but Livaja brought new life to the team almost immediately.

We struggled to find a way past Kapino but eventually the breakthrough came in 64th minute when a beautifully controlled pass by Araujo found Lazaros alone in the box. Lazaros, who was easily the best player on the pitch today, put the shot away with a one timer that would ultimately open the flood gates.

It wasn’t a smooth road to the end however as some disturbances outside the pitch resulted in the police releasing numerous canisters worth of tear gas into the air. The wind carried the tear gas into the stadium itself leading to discomfort among supporters and players. Now I might not know what exactly was going on outside the pitch, and its certainly disappointing that events like that had to take place at a game like the one we saw today. However, it should be pointed out that perhaps the police could have dealt with the situation in a more suitable way rather than releasing large amounts of tear gas with about 40,000 mostly peaceful supporters just meters away.

Naturally, the tear gas resulted in the game being halted in the hopes that the air would clear enough. Thankfully it did and we were able to continue without too much of a break. It still took a little while for our next breakthrough to come but eventually it did in the 80th minute with some more magic from Lazaros. This time, he put the ball in the net from a free kick that was even prettier than the one he score against Rijeka. It was especially far from the area but he managed to take it so perfectly that there was no chance for Kapino to track its movement. We’ve seen many great free kick takers at AEK in the past like Rivaldo and Scocco but I’m not sure we’ll see a free kick more spectacular than the one we see today for quite a while.

At 2-2, I was quite honestly relieved. A draw would have been a disappointment, but at least it would have kept Olympiakos at bay. The team had other ideas though and it was clear they were going all in for the win. There was no reason for them not to though as Olympiakos were clearly stunned by what had happened and werent quite sure how to react. The fact that their manager got expelled from the game might or might not have made things worse for them but their nightmare really became reality when Mantalos tapped in a Livaja cross just before the 90 minute mark. It wasn’t the prettiest goal compared to what we saw earlier in the game, but it got the job done and ultimately sealed the three points and a remarkable comeback. The look on the faces of the Olympiakos players said it all as did the delirium coming from the AEK supporters.

Theres been lots of promise and hype surrounding AEK this season and this game validated a lot of it. As many people have said, it was one of the best derbies of recent years, up there with the 4-4 Cup final. We saw beautiful goals, nice flowing football, a great crowd, and even the officiating was pretty good (though I feel like Olympiakos could have received a red card earlier in the game). The icing on the cake is the fact that this game has also turned the situation for Olympiakos from bad to worse. Their coach has officially been fired and their collective mental state could not be any worse now going into their game against Juventus.

For us AEK supporters however, this game might be a glimpse of whats to come for AEK this season. If all goes well, we’ll see much more of what we saw today and if thats the case, this might very well be the best season AEK has seen since the early 90s. With a new stadium on its way and progress being made on the construction every day, its pretty safe to say that these are good times to be an AEK supporter. The supporters in Nea Filadelfia certainly thought the same after the game today:

AEK 1-0 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , , , on May 22, 2017 by alexaek

We managed to come away with the three points at the last minute yesterday against PAO, courtesy of a late goal from Lazaros against his former club. The win follows our disappointing home 0-1 home loss to Panionios, a performance which saw us create very few noteworthy chances.

Luckily we got the better result yesterday against PAO, a result which puts us in first place in the playoffs courtesy of PAOK’s 1-0 win against Panionios. It wasn’t a great performance by any means, especially considering we were playing against a depleted PAO squad, but it definitely puts us in a good spot going into the fourth round.

Thankfully we managed to create some chances this game with Mantalos coming close on a header. Arguably the biggest chance though came when Almeida was faced with a rather routine tap into a practically empty net. Unfortunately though he came up short and ended up sending the ball over the cross bar, missing a chance that no professional forward should ever realistically miss.

The game seemed to be heading to a 0-0 draw before Lazaros took a shot from distance that managed to sneak its way into the net. It was the kind of goal that we’ve come to expect from him, a shot from distance with enough power that it manages one way or another to find its way into the net, and I must say that its nice to see him go for it. I’ve always felt that it doesn’t hurt to take shots if you know you have a good foot: maybe it goes in, maybe it goes out for a corner, or maybe you get a helpful rebound, either way a lot of good can come of it.

It wasn’t all good news this weekend though as AEK’s basketball team faced PAO for game four of the Basket league playoffs. After winning a historic match against PAO two games earlier, we ended up falling short last week in game three. All was not lost though as game four was to be played in front of our supporters again and I felt like we had a chance to even the series for a second time. It was not meant to be however as not only did we lose, but we lost in a huge way with a final score of 67-105 showing just how big the difference was between the two sides. Our defense was awful and practically non-existent at times and our offense looked extremely uninspired. It was too bad considering the team gave us so much hope with that win last weekend.

Its the end of the season again for us, but I think this past season really does set us up well for the next one. We had a great run in Europe and we looked good a lot of the times against PAO and Olympiakos. We clearly aren’t where we want to be yet to challenge for a European final or the Championship, but the foundations are there. Unfortunately though, a lot of work still needs to be done and money still needs to be spent. Its promising though and if management is keen on building upon what they have, as they seem to be, we have reason to optimistic about what lies ahead.

AEK 3-0 Platanias

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Champions League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2017 by alexaek

With relative ease we’ve booked our place in the semi-finals of the Cup. Can we go all the way from this point on? I see absolutely no reason why we can’t with the form we’re seeing at the moment.

Going into the game I was very slightly worried, if only for the fact that the 0-0 draw in the previous game in Crete left us little breathing room if we failed to score early. Platanias afterall only stand one point behind us in the league and have proven time and time again that they can get results against bigger clubs.

Any fears I might have had though we’re quickly put to rest after we got off to a pretty good start, with Lazaros scoring the penalty that resulted from Mantalos being taken down in the box by Platanias’ Yaya Banana. That same play also resulted in a red card for Platanias which certainly only made things easier from that point on.

Oh, and speaking of penalties and red cards, the olympiakos press has been going on all night about how we got “helped” by the refs through the calls… Regardless of whether the penalty was the right call or not, the fact that their press has been going on about this, from a game they weren’t even involved in, is something else. Maybe they’re using it to get their supporters more fired up in case they play us once again in the Cup? Can’t say I mind, it would make any meetings between us in the Cup that much more enjoyable. I still find it incredible that supporters of that team can have the nerve to complain about another team receiving a call like that from a ref…

Back to our game though: I think its safe to say that after the first goal and the red card for Platanias, pretty much anyone following the game would think that the win was pretty much guaranteed for AEK at that point. Rightfully so too, as we continued to score with goals from Araujo (his third in the cup so far) and a beautifully taken finish by Johansson.

Its also safe to say that with a little more luck, the score could have easily ended around 5-0 as we hit the post and had a number of excellent chances missed throughout the game. Regardless, its the win that counts, an important win that books us a place in the semi-finals of a Cup which I genuinely believe our players want to win. It helps too having a coach who has won this cup before and knows how good it would feel to raise it again.

Its obviously too early to tell who we’ll face in the next round but Panathinaikos will definitely be there. I’m pretty confident PAOK will make it to the next round too, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the Atromitos-Olympiakos game. Its very possible we could end up seeing Atromitos joining us in the semi-finals considering Olympiakos’ recent form in Greece.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news today as Chyrgrynskiy had to be subbed off after just a few minutes into the game for what seemed like an arm injury. I’m not sure how bad it is at this point but I hope it doesn’t keep him out for too long.

 

As great as our football team has been lately, our basketball team also deserves some credit after not only beating PAOK over the weekend, but also beating Monaco yesterday in the Champions League round of 16. It was only a one point win, but its definitely a promising result going into the return leg in France. Its also promising to keep in mind that there will be at least 500 AEK supporters present in the rather small arena in Monaco, not to mention the number of Marseille supporters who will also make the trip to support AEK.