Archive for Livaja

CL Group Stage Bound! (AEK 1-1 MOL Vidi)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Draw, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2018 by alexaek

Twelve years since our last appearance in the Champions League group stages and we are finally heading back! It might not have been pretty but ultimately the team managed to accomplish what they set out to accomplish so far.

By most accounts it actually wasn’t a great game on our part. We managed to find our way ahead thanks to a well taken Mantalos penalty shot but Vidi managed to equalize not too long after and for much of the remainder of the game, we were left wondering if Vidi might even find a way to force the game to extra time. Without a strong performance from Barkas, Vidi could have definitely found the back of the net yet again.

Luckily though, we managed to hold onto the draw in front of nearly 40,000 rain drenched supporters. Unfortunately however, we didn’t escape unscathed. Not only did we lose Lopez towards the end of the match with a red card, but Livaja also received a red card after the final whistle had blown. Of course, this means we’ll be without two key players for the next match at least although it looks like there might even be the chance of Livaja receiving a further one or two game ban. This would be, to say the least, a huge blow for us considering how huge a role he has played for us in terms of offense. I guess the one bright side is that it might give one of our recent singings a big opportunity but its definitely not a great situation to find ourselves in.

Regardless, we’ve done it. For the next few months at least we will be watching AEK play against some of Europe’s biggest clubs. The draw for the Group Stage will take place this coming thursday and as expected, we might be drawn against some big names. Looking at the list of possible opponents, its hard to really find one that I would prefer to play against over another. Of course there are the typical favourites but every possible opponent could be a huge challenge. The total list of possible teams in our group is as follows.

First pot: Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Juventus, PSG, Manchester City, Lokomotiv Moscow

Second pot: Dortmund, Porto, Manchester United, Shakhtar Donetsk, Benfica, Napoli, Tottenham, Roma

Third pot: Liverpool, Schalke, Lyon, Monaco, Salzburg, Ajax, CSKA Moscow, Eindhoven

As you can see, from the first pot all the way to the third, theres nothing but tough opposition. I honestly can’t even chose a single team out of that list that I would consider an “easier” opponent aside from possibly Lokomotiv or Salzburg but even those two sides will be extremely tough to play against. Regardless, it will still be great fun in either case and considering our strong form in Europe lately, I see no reason to not be up for the challenge.

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AEK 2-0 PAS Giannena

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , on August 25, 2018 by alexaek

Goals from Livaja and Ponce ensured that AEK got off to the best start possible for this season’s Championship campaign. Had luck been on our side, the score could easily have been higher for us especially considering a fairly clear penalty wasn’t called in our favour. In either case, it was a solid outing from the team and the expected three points were exactly what we needed to ensure our run of good form continues.

Livaja had a noteworthy day today after not only scoring the second goal, but doing well to set up the first one. Ponce also looked particularly promising, scoring the opener but also finding himself involved in a number of other chances. If Ponce and Livaja continue to link up well as we saw today, we might see the start of a great attacking pairing. Memories of the Livaja-Araujo attacking duo? I’m definitely seeing it so far.

Defensively the game went as expected. PAS made their way forward from time to time but never really managed to look particularly threatening. Overall there was very little to complain about with the team but its safe to say the first true test of the league will come next week when we head south to Tripolis. Of course before that we face Vidi for the second leg of our Champions League qualifying tie early next week. We can’t take anything for granted, but I see no reason for our run of form to end against the Hungarian side and if all goes to plan, we’ll be celebrating our return to the Champions League group stages by next Tuesday evening!

AEK 2-1 Celtic (3-2 Aggregate)

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2018 by alexaek

Well there we have it, after two close encounters AEK are through to the playoff round of the Champions League qualifiers. It wasn’t always easy as Celtic definitely tried to create something offensively but we managed to hold on when it mattered most to come out with the win.

It was the perfect start for AEK, going up 1-0 following a rather straight forward finish from Galo. Just as last week in Glasgow, the Celtic defenders offered us way too much space in their own box and Galo didn’t hesitate to take advantage after latching onto Hult’s ball in.

Celtic’s defending then let them down again when they failed to handle a set play from AEK just five minutes into the second half. Galo was involved again, sending the ball into the box which Lambropoulos managed to head towards an open Livaja who managed to ease the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 for AEK at this point and the match was almost all but settled.

Some tense moments did follow though as Celtic managed to pull one back. At this point one more goal for them would have put them ahead on Aggregate and through to the next round but just as in Glasgow last week, the team managed to soak up the pressure while failing to succumb to multiple Celtic attacks.

It was yet another huge night and a sign that things might be going our way again this season, even if its still early. One nice fact to take away from the game is that our unbeaten streak in Europe continues for at least another two games following our good run in the Europa League last year.

Of course, the work isn’t all done yet. We still have to get past Hungarian side before we can cement our place in the Group stages. Needless to say, our confidence will be high heading into the encounter with Vidi and we will most likely head into the two matches as favourites to progress.

It was a good night for Greek football overall as PAOK also progressed through to the playoff round. Unfortunately their path to the group stages will be considerably tougher as they will have to overcome Benfica to make it through, but that doesn’t mean its impossible. I can’t confirm if a date and time for our first match against Vidi has been confirmed but I believe it will most likely take place next week, on the 21st of August.

I know its still early, but I’m starting to get excited at the prospect of seeing AEK in the Champions League group stages again. Hopefully more nights like these are to come:

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.

 

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…

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!