Archive for Livaja

At A Loss For Words

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on March 11, 2018 by alexaek

Just when you think you’ve seen it all in Greek football, something happens that makes you realize you haven’t seen anything yet. What unfolded in Toumba today proved yet again that you can really never know what to expect when it comes to this league (though calling it a “league” would be a little too generous… maybe “zoo” would be more appropriate).

It all started with what happened early Sunday morning (or late Saturday night for those of us in North America) as I mentioned yesterday. PAOK’s punishment for what happened two weeks earlier in Toumba were reversed as they were given back 3 points and were allowed to play with fans in the stadium for today’s match. How those decisions were made is beyond me, but what was more important today was the game at hand against the only team that could challenge us for the league.

The game got off to what was surprisingly a quiet start off the pitch. Little fan trouble from what I could tell and no issues in the locker rooms either, though the match itself was a dirty one. Tackles were coming from both sides and as would be expected, it wasn’t the kind of environment that encouraged flowing football. Eventually things settled down and we did see some chances for both sides, including scoring opportunities for Araujo, Livaja, and Bakasetas.

The match was heading for a 0-0 stalemate when at the 89th minute, PAOK scored from a corner. Or did they? Replays showed that a PAOK player was clearly in an offside position and though the referee originally indicated that the goal was a good one, he seemed to track back on that decision. After consulting with his linesman and dealing with pressure from both sets of players, he seemed to reverse his decision (a call which I believe was a good one, though “experts” in Greece seem undecided on whether the goal should have counted or not).

Now you might be wondering, what was so odd about that? A fairly dirty game, a few chances for both sides, and a last minute winner are all to be expected in a derby. Well, it was after the referee changed his mind on the goal that things unfortunately turned ugly. What happened next was honestly something I would never have expected to see, not even in Greek football.

At this point in the game with the score reversed back to 0-0, Ivan Savidis, owner of PAOK, stormed on to the pitch and instructed his players to leave the pitch. I guess he was attempting to protest the refs decision to disallow the goal? In either case, it didn’t help to calm the situation down at all and he faced resistance from his own players after they refused to leave the pitch and insisted on finishing the match. The situation escalated from there as Savidis made his way towards the refs and AEK’s bench, supposedly cursing officials including referee Kominis and a number of AEK staff members.

What made all of this almost unbelievable is one small detail that wasn’t originally shown on TV. Pictures that surfaced not long after all this happened show Savidis walking onto the pitch with a pistol strapped to his waist. Yes, thats right. PAOK’s owner walks on to the pitch and not only does he start threating officials and staff of AEK, but he does so with a gun on him. I can honestly say I’ve seen it all in Greek football now. I don’t know if Savidis thought he was back in Russia, where maybe that kind of thing happens regularly, but I think its safe to say you can understand why AEK players and staff made their way to the dressing room shortly after that.

pistol2pistol1

After the incident involving Savidis, the refereeing team also made their way to the dressing rooms and it was at this point where the result of the match was completely up in the air. Would the game continue? Would it be ended as a draw? It took around two hours before a decision was made and the decision that was officially declared by the ref was one that not even the radio commentators had ever seen before. Officially, the ref claimed a 1-0 PAOK win and declared the game “called off” because AEK refused to re-enter the pitch. So the goal counted, then was taken back, and was then re-awarded to PAOK after the fact. Yep, I don’t think I’ll ever see a day like this again in Greek Football.

Now, at this point the match might be awarded 1-0 for PAOK but I think its safe to say that this is far from over. This will definitely be taken to court, and AEK will have a strong case for having the result reversed in some way. I’m sure it will be a couple weeks at least until we know what officially the outcome of this match is. Its also worth noting that there is talk of the government shutting down the league, indefinitely or for the remainder of the season. I’m sure the headlines of newspapers throughout Greece will be pretty interesting…

Advertisements

One Step Closer!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup, Greek Football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2018 by alexaek

AEK took one huge step closer to the Championship today after beating Panionios 1-0 at home. However, it wasn’t our victory alone but rather what happened with PAOK and Oly that has made the difference. Prior to our game today, Asteras clinched an unbelievable 3-2 over PAOK in the 98th minute, a minute after PAOK had made it 2-2 in the 97th minute. On top of that, Olmympiakos and PAO played to a 1-1 draw after ten man PAO managed to tie the score in the 87th minute. Both those results mean we are now two points clear of PAOK and seven points clear of Oly.

All of that could change depending on whether Oly get awarded three points and PAOK get three points deducted after last week’s fiasco in Toumba, something which would also play out nicely in our favour. On top of that we play PAOK next weekend, a game which if we win could see us ultimately move eight points clear of them.

As for our game today, well it was really a game of two halves. The first half was rather enjoyable to watch as an AEK supporter. We created numerous chances (I think we had 13 by the end of the first half) and had a few legitimate goal scoring opportunities including a tet-a-tet which Araujo failed to put away. It was Livaja who made the difference though after latching onto a Galo cross and heading the ball in.

On top of attacking well, we also pressured Panionios relentlessly, so much so that they didn’t have a single chance at the end of the first 45 minutes. We defended well when they did move forward and overall looked well on track to sealing the three points.

The second half however was a different story. We were sloppy and careless, gifted Panionios way too much space, and struggled to really build and substantial attacks. I’ll blame it on fatigue for now, but hopefully we don’t see more of the same when we play in Toumba next week otherwise we won’t get away so easily. Thankfully, Panionios’ attack was fairly disjointed and failed to really threaten much and we were able to do enough to hold on.

Our match against Panionios today wasn’t the only match we played this week. I never got a post up about it, but we also faced Larissa in the first round of the Cup Semi-Finals. Unfortunately, the news to report isn’t good. We lost 2-1 which, on the bright side of things means we have a crucial away goal and should be in a good position to clinch our spot in the final when we play them again in Athens. The bad news about the result is that our undefeated streak has now come to an end. Its sad to the streak, which lasted around 24 games, come to an end like that but really in the grand scheme of things streak or no streak will hardly matter if we manage to hold on and win the league.

Like I said, I’m not worried about this result. Larissa are hardly a threat and a regrouped AEK should have no trouble beating this team when we face again in Athens.

AEK 1-0 Asteras Tripolis

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer, Injuries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2018 by alexaek

After two straight wins against Olympiakos, AEK would have gone in to today’s game against Tripolis knowing the 3 points were anything but guaranteed. Sure enough, we had a much harder time today though I would argue a lot of that came from bad luck rather rather than having anything to do with the opponent we were facing.

Bearing that in mind, it didn’t help that Athanasiadis had what might have been one of the best games of his career in nets for Tripolis. What really made this match a struggle for us though was the inability of players like Araujo and Livaja to finish plays which they normally would have no problem scoring on.

It was absurd really, but the ball just didn’t want to go in. We had a lucky break when we were awarded a penalty (rightfully so I might add) which Lazaros was able to put away, otherwise I’m not sure we would have scored any other way. I still cannot wrap my head around what I saw from Araujo today. After scoring one of the nicest goals of the season earlier this week, there was nothing he could do today to get the ball in the net. Aside from missing a relatively easy header and having another post later in the match, his strangest miss came early on in the match. A simple cross in from Masoud was dangerously deflected by an Asteras defender and was heading right for the open net when Araujo inexplicably tried to kick the ball into the net. Understandable as he was just looking to guide it a little more but the result of his attempt was the ball hitting the crossbar and floating harmlessly away from goal. The worst part about the whole play is that had Araujo simply not even touched the ball, it would have gone in on its own without a doubt.

Its one of those plays thats simply too hard to even understand, but I suppose its forgivable considering what Araujo has done for us so far. To be honest I’d rather he miss today and get it out of his system, considering we got the win, if it means he’ll be having some better luck for our match against Dynamo Kiev in a few days time.

Overall, it wasn’t a terrible match by any stretch. Tripolis are always a tricky opponent so any win is a win I’ll take, even more so considering Olympiakos’ draw against Atromitos earlier today. The good news from today’s game is that we’re now first, at least until tomorrow when that could change depending on PAOK’s result against Larissa. The bad news from today’s game though is that Kone had to leave the pitch shortly after coming on as a sub. He suffered a leg injury after recovering awkwardly from a challenge though its still not known the extent of the injury. Hopefully it won’t keep him out too long, as we’re already stretched thin as far as injuries are concerned.

Some positives from the match for me include:

  • Hult, our new singing from PAO, had a pretty solid start at left back today. The Swede, who was with PAO for two years and was arguably one of their better players recently, looked good overall defensively but was also able to contribute going forward on a few occasions. What I liked about his presence in the starting 11 today was that it allowed Bakakis to cover right back which gave Galo the opportunity to play as a right midfielder, a position that suited him as hes always been an offensively minded player.
  • Today’s match was our 22nd match undefeated in all competitions which I believe is a new record for the team. For more info on this run, check out this AgonaSport article here

As of now, this is how the top 5 of the standings looks:

standings

Still far too close for comfort, and I expect PAOK to get the win tomorrow. But hey, at least its exciting for once!

AEK 2-0 Lamia

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , on January 29, 2018 by alexaek

And just like that, were back in the race. Thanks to our 2-0 win against Lamia and Olympiakos’ 1-1 draw in Tripolis, only two points separate 1st and 3rd. As it stands, we currently sit 3rd with 41 points, behind Olympiakos on 42 and PAOK on 43. Its safe to say we haven’t seen a top 3 that was this close in as long as I can remember and it certainly sets up a high stakes encounter when we face Olympiakos in Karaiskaki this coming weekend.

Wasn’t able to catch the game myself as I was away for the weekend, but our goals came courtesy of Lazaros and, unsurprisingly, Livaja. Livaja now sits on 7 goals this season, even with Araujo. Lazaros meanwhile isn’t too far behind either with 5 goals thus far. His goal particularly was a pretty one, not so much for the finish but for the play that lead to it.

The result over the weekend wasn’t anything noteworthy on its own, but it is worth noting that prior to Saturday’s win, we hadn’t scored a goal in two games. Thankfully we managed to get the job done seeing as a loss would have seen us sit 5 points out of 2nd place. As things currently stand, we could very well see ourselves leapfrog Olympiakos into 2nd place, something which I genuinely think we have a chance at doing. Is it likely? No, it never is when you face them in their own stadium, but at the moment I’d say we’re pretty even with them and if the Cup game was anything to go by, we definitely have what it takes to grind out a result. If anything, I would argue that we are even more prepared having just faced them in their own grounds less than a week ago.

 

 

 

AEK 3-1 PAS Giannena

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2018 by alexaek

Our strong start to 2018 continued with another win, this time against 11th placed PAS Giannena. Overall it was a fairly decent game, but Giannena did manage to tie the match at 1-1 for a while which resulted in some uncertainty. Ultimately though, despite the generally slow pace to the match, our finishing was critical enough when we needed it to be.

Our scorers were, unsurprisingly, Livaja with the opener and Araujo with the 2nd and 3rd goals. Araujo’s goals today mean he has now scored 5 goals in the last 5 games while Livaja has also scored 4 goals in the last 6 games. Pretty decent numbers overall and despite Araujo getting off to a slow start for us this season, its safe to say that he has earned his spot in the roster yet again.

The commentators mentioned today that the match had a generally slow pace and I would have to agree. That’s not to say we played poorly, because we did have some chances, but overall it seemed like we were lacking some urgency at times. Thankfully, that changed a bit when we conceeded and the Giannena red card also seemed to serve as motivation for the team, but for a while I was nervous about whether we would actually regain the lead.

One thing worth pointing out about today’s match was that our defense was definitely the weakest link in the team today. It was a poor clearance which led to Giannena’s goal, and there were a number of occasions where other poor clearances took place which luckily didn’t result in more goals against us. We struggled to deal with routine balls a few times and if it was another team we were playing against, we may not have been so lucky.

In any case, its another huge 3 points as the top of the table is still extremely tight. Olympiakos play tomorrow and assuming they win, we’ll be tied for second with PAOK, just one point behind first place.

Levadeiakos 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , on December 4, 2017 by alexaek

Another week and we’re still top of the league. Its still far too close for comfort but does it ever feel good.

With the way the standings are right now, every match is a crucial as the one before and today was no exception after both Oly and PAOK won on Saturday. The match went according to plan for the most part, though Levadeiakos were a pretty stubborn side to break down for much of the first half. As the commentators pointed out, they were playing with all men behind the ball for much of the match which made it tough for AEK to find space.

We did find space eventually though in the 52nd minute, with Araujo sending a pass Livaja’s way. Livaja, as is to be expected with someone in the form that hes currently in, cleanly chipped the ball over the Levadeiakos keeper to open the scoring. Araujo had a great chance to make it 2-0 for AEK when was clear on goal himself, only for his chip to just be tipped away by the keeper.

The goal caused Levadeiakos to open up a bit which gave us enough space to find a second goal, this time when Araujo was able to convert after a beautiful ball was sent up the pitch by Tsintotas. Speaking of Tsintotas, he was in nets instead of Anestis today as a result of Anestis and AEK not yet having settled on a new contract from what I could understand.

Overall it was a decent match from an AEK stand point, though truth be told we were hardly challenged by Levadeiakos. They did come close in the dying minutes of the game but even had they scored it would have been too little too late. The statistics yet again showed pretty much how the game went, with AEK having 63% possession and 16 shots in total.

That wasn’t the only game we had lately, as we also had a midweek cup match against Kalithea. The game, which ended 3-2 in AEK’s favour, was more about giving some playing time to reserve players as AEK had already clinched top spot in the group. The roster featured players like Giakoumakis, Vlachomitros, Vinicius, and Giannoutsos. The biggest surprise however Christos Giousis, an 18 year old midfielder who had never yet played in a professional match for AEK. His debut was, safe to say, an exceptional one. Not only did he end up scoring 2 out of our 3 goals, but he generally looked very composed with the ball at his feet.

You can see what I mean here:

The other scorer from the game was, of all people, Tzanetopoulos. It has to be said that even though Giakoumakis didn’t score, he also had a good game which is promising to see considering we all know his potential. He was involved in a number of plays and even he might not have hit the target, his effort was good to see.

AEK 1-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, football with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2017 by alexaek

I’ve met many people throughout my relatively young life who simply were not into sports. One thing I often hear from some of these people is that they don’t understand the point of supporting a team, of spending so much of your time and energy towards a team, when you know the chances of ever winning a championship are relatively slim. To be honest, they’re probably right, especially when you support a team in Greece. Look at us AEK supporters for example: sure we win a cup here and there, but we haven’t won a championship since 1994, over 20 years ago.

So why do we show up at the stadium every weekend? Why do AEK supporters in Australia wake up at unimaginable times in the middle of the night to watch the team? Why do those of us in North America interrupt our Sundays to watch an AEK team that we know will not win the championship most of the time? The answer is simple really: its days like today that keep us going, 23 years after our last championship.

Now its not only the fact that we beat PAOK that made this particular Sunday so rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, that was a huge win and I’ll get into why it was in a bit but it was what happened before the game against PAOK that really made this Sunday such a satisfying one for us AEK supporters. Only a couple hours before our triumph on the pitch, we also triumphed on the courts, beating PAO 73-69 to secure our spot in the Basketball Cup Final for the first time in 17 years.

Not much to complain about right? I”ll start with the basketball game since that took place first. We all know that AEK was once one of the best basketball clubs in Europe but for the past decade and a half, PAO and Olympiakos have been undeniably stronger than us. They’re the better teams, its as simple as that, so to beat either of them is a pretty big deal for us. But to beat PAO in the semi finals of the Cup is a huge deal. The fact that it was a close game throughout makes it even more satisfying though I’ll admit that I was afraid we would let the win slip in the end. Luckily we managed to hold on and win, thanks especially to a 25 point 4th quarter which was enough to down PAO in the end.

The Cup Final will take place on the 17th of February (how am I supposed to wait that long???) and will put us up against Olympiakos. The last time we played in the Cup Final? 2001, the year we won it against PAO. It will be a very tough match and Olympiakos will be favourites without a doubt, but I have no doubt that AEK will be up for the challenge.

 

Now before I continue onto the match against PAOK, I have to point out that it wasn’t all good news. Shortly before the match was due to begin, we saw crowd troubles yet again at OAKA, resulting in tear gas for a second time this season. I’m not certain of the details, but from what I could make out on the radio it sounded like it had something to do with security/the police, and the number of fans trying to make their way into the grounds. Again, I’m not sure what exactly happened and what started it all, but I did hear that there were some scuffles between supporters and cops, and that a decent amount of tear gas was released just outside the gates. I haven’t learned of any injuries or arrests, but I do know that the amount of tear gas released was enough to cause the delay of the game by a few minutes until the atmosphere was able to clear out a bit. Unfortunately, it sounds like we might see more punishment as a result of what happened. Almost definitely a fine, and quite likely a ban for our fans from at least one match. All I’m hoping for at this time is that we don’t see a point deduction.

As for the match itself? Well, the excitement carried over to the pitch as well. Only 8 minutes into the match and we saw a red card to Araujo after he shoved Zambrano to the ground. Was it worthy of a red card? Absolutely, but I feel that Zambrano should have gotten a red as well for shoving Araujo prior to Araujo’s shove. The only difference between the two shoves? Zambrano decided to theatrically fall to the ground.

Going a man down that early was worrying, but for some reason I was never too nervous. Araujo has been fairly quiet afterall (maybe this will “wake him up”a bit), plus I figured this would just make a goal against PAOK even more satisfying.

Our goal did eventually come despite playing a man less, with Livaja tucking away a Simoes cross in the 25th minute. We needed some luck on the goal after the ball took a favorable deflection on its way to Simoes, but a goal is a goal in a derby, regardless of how they come.

The playing field leveled itself shortly after, when Zambrano received a second yellow for an obvious challenge. Its safe to say that it was only a matter of time until PAOK received a red as they had been playing some dirty football up to that point (I would expect no less from them though).

From that point on it was a fairly scrappy match with a few chances for either side and many dirty tackles in between. PAOK had their fair share of chances, but it was obvious they were unlikely to score. They definitely put the pressure on but they were anything but clinical in front of our net. Its worth noting that once all was said and done, PAOK had 6 yellow cards and 2 reds. Sound like a derby to you? I’d say so.

Not the prettiest match, but the team did well to come away with the 3 points. We have to keep in mind that we lost Araujo early, we were playing withouth Mantalos, and we were coming off a tough match against Milan. Not easy conditions to play under at all, but its reassuring to see that this team can adapt do whats needed to get results one way or another.

Derbies are always important, but this one carried some extra importance with regards to the standings. As a result of the win, we now move up to 1st place, tied on points with Atromitos. Atromitos technically have the edge due to the fact that they beat us earlier in the season, but its still a great place to find ourselves 10 matches. Were not clear yet since even though we currently have 20 points, PAOK are just behind us on 18 followed by Olympiakos with 17.

 

We have two weeks off until our next game so that Greece can play its World Cup qualifier against Croatia but we’ll be back in business against PAO, at their stadium. To be honest, this is probably the most confident I’ve been in a while about our chances of sneaking away with a win at Leoforos. PAO are an extremely unpredictable team but for the most part they’ve been pretty poor this season. If we’re going to beat them in their own home, this is our chance.