Archive for Livaja

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.

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Asteras Tripolis 2-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Superleague with tags , , , , , , on October 2, 2017 by alexaek

We suffered our first loss over the weekend and though we might be lucky to still be in 1st, we chose an awful weekend to drop so many points. Why you might ask? With PAOK drawing and Olympiakos losing at home, we had a golden opportunity to increase our lead in 1st to 4 points. Instead, we find ourselves lucky to still be in 1st after Lamia beat Panionios earlier today.

It could be worse for sure, but its disappointing still. Its especially disappointing since it feels as though this loss could have been avoided. I missed this match too unfortunately but I followed it and was surprised to see some of the decisions Jimenez went with. What really surprised me at first was the fact that we started with Tsintotas in goal. Now I’m not saying that he was to blame for any of the goals (to be honest I haven’t even seen the highlights yet), but why start with him in possibly our most important game of the season so far? He hasn’t even played yet in the league this season afterall.

We also started with Giannoutsos and Vinicius in defense and it seems as though neither of them had a great game either. Giannoutsos specifically was making his Superleague debut in a high pressure game and Vinicius was apparently largely to blame for the opening goal. It just doesn’t make sense why Jimenez would risk so much in a game like this. I understand that the players were tired, we saw this clearly in our Europa league match earlier this week, but we have two weeks until our next game and plenty of time for the players to rest before then. It seems very odd that Jimenez would make these moves; maybe he thought it was a risk worth taking. Its safe to say that the result was not what he was hoping for so the best we could expect is that he might not take such big risks in the future.

It didn’t sound like the most exciting game and it seems as though when both Livaja and Lazaros are not in the starting lineup, then we really struggle to create genuine chances. Whats really alarming when looking at the stats is that we had 2 shots inside the box while Tripolis had 6. A porous defense and an attack that could hardly create anything worthwhile, definitely not what we like to see. To make things worse, this is the 3rd game in a row now where we concede just after half time, with Tripolis’ opening goal coming in the 47th minute. Its a weird trend if I may say so myself but after seeing it happen three games in a row, I’m starting to wonder if its more than just coincidence.

Overall a disappointing weekend, but like I said we’re still 1st with 13 points while PAOK are closely behind us on 12 points. Its worth noting that after their loss, Olympiakos 7th with 8 points, only 2 points ahead of PAO who got off to an awful start this season. Its definitely an interesting start to the season and while its a little too close for comfort from an AEK supporter perspective, it definitely has more potential to be one of the more exciting championships we’ve seen in a while.

AEK 2-2 Austria Wien

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , on September 28, 2017 by alexaek

Not the result we were all hoping for considering the form we were in coming into the game, but all things considered it isn’t all that bad either. Milan’s narrow 3-2 win against Rijeka today means we’re still somewhat comfortably in 2nd place, 2 points behind Milan and 3 ahead of Wien.

Without having seen the game, it seems as though there are a few important points to highlight from the game:

  • The team were clearly tired. Its understandable considering the effort they gave during the game against Olympiakos. The pace was almost relentless that game aside from a few spells where it died down so naturally not everyone might have recovered fully in time for this game. Its unfortunate, but hopefully it won’t be as big an issue when we play a European game following a non-derby league game.
  • We had our chances. Overall we had 23 attempts, 11 of which were on target. Sounds much like the game against Olympiakos in fact. Its nice to know we’re creating chances and its only a matter of time until we get better (or luckier) at converting them. It didn’t help that Pentz, the Wien keeper, had an amazing night in goal.
  • Ajdarevic failed to impress yet again. This might come as no surprise now but its becoming increasingly clearer that he doesn’t really have a spot in the team. I’m hoping once Kone and Giakoumakis are match fit that maybe we’ll see less of him. Its unfortunate but every time hes on the pitch he contributes very little to the team. From what I’ve heard it was essentially as though he wasn’t even on the pitch. AEK365 even went as far as giving him a 2 out of 10 rating. Ouch…
  • Our attacking core is looking great. Mantalos, Lazaros, Livaja, and Araujo seem to be linking up together very nicely and the number of quality chances they’ve created lately suggests just that. What I especially like is the fact that any one of them can be dangerous on any given day.

Unfortunately we did see some injury scares today with Cosic going down early and being forced to be subbed off. I haven’t read yet how serious it is yet but I’m hoping he wont be out for long. We’re already stretched thin with our centre backs and considering its only a matter of time until Vranjes gets a red in the league, I can only hope he wont be out for too long.

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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 Alone in First

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2017 by alexaek

Lamia 0-1 AEK

A late (and somewhat fortunate) penalty turned out to be the difference for AEK after a game which saw many chances but few goals thanks to some great goalkeeping by Lamia’s Papadopoulos.

It wasn’t a great game but it did provide some entertainment as both sides had their chances to score. Lamia deserve credit for the game because despite being outplayed they still managed to look dangerous at times and were well disciplined defensively. While we did come away with the win, the game gives Jimenez something to think about as we play Lamia again two days from now in our first cup game of the season.

Anestis had a good game, dealing with whatever was thrown his way and our defense was also pretty solid in the centre though I feel like our left wing was left exposed a little too often. Offense wise, it wasn’t a consistent effort from the group. On the one hand, players like Mantalos, Araujo, Livaja, and Lazaros all had pretty good games while both Bakasetas and Klonaridis contributed very little to our attack. I would be a bit worried if I were Bakasetas or Klonaridis because its only a matter of time until Araujo and Livaja are considered for the starting position. On top of that, Giakoumakis should be returning from injury at some point which will create even more competition for spots in our offense.

Much of the talk in the press over the past couple of days revolved around the fact that our penalty should have only been a free kick, and there is definitely some truth to that. I’ll be the first to admit that I think it was a bad call, but if I remember correctly, Lamia’s Pito also should have received a red card so it wouldn’t exactly be right to claim that only AEK benefited from the officiating. Either way the result is what it is and because of it we now find ourselves in first place with 10 points. After four games we are still yet to concede a goal and its looking more and more like we’ll have a very good chance against Olympiakos this sunday. A win on sunday would put us five points clear of Olympiakos which would be an amazing position to be in this early in the season. Its worth noting that Olympiakos play Juventus in the Champions League just a few days after they play us so its safe to say that game might be on their minds which will hopefully affect how they prepare for us. Its also safe to say that their form is anything but stellar after a home loss in the champions league and two straight draws in the Championship.

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2017 by alexaek

It was a stalemate today in Brugge despite both teams coming close to scoring on a number of chances. Perhaps a disappointing result in terms of excitement, but its definitely a result which puts us in a good position to advance further in the Europa League. The result certainly doesn’t guarantee anything but starting on equal footing at home after a promising performance in the first leg sets us up nicely.

It was definitely an improved performance over how we played against CSKA based on what I’ve been reading and seeing in highlights. Even Anestis managed to have a solid outing despite some shaky games against CSKA in which his judgment left much to be desired. All in all it sounds like the entire team put in a good showing today aside from Klonaridis, though if I remember correctly I read an article which stated that he was playing with an injury.

As I was following the commentary it definitely seemed like we started strong. Unlike our matches against CSKA though, we were able to create some quality chances today. It was nice to see some creativity from the team too, something which goes to show that the chemistry might have improved considerably compared to our previous two matches. Jimenez even mentioned after the match that even though the team might still be lacking in a couple areas, they’re certainly playing with passion and grit.

Some nice highlights in the video below though my personal favourite would have to be that chance off the free kick right at the end. Had that managed to sneak in it would have been the perfect way to end a match. You’ll also notice during the highlights that Livaja got sent off in the 58th minute. I couldn’t see any legitimate cause for a second yellow and AEK365 seemed to feel the same way. Its unfortunate that we’ll miss him for the next match as he seemed to have played a good match today, but I’m sure Jimenez can work something out. Lazaros could start in his position next week or perhasps we can even see Giakoumakis being given a chance.

Pre-Season Friendlies Have Begun

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Friendlies, Singings with tags , , , , , on July 9, 2017 by alexaek

Its that time of year again, where we start to get a first look at how the team might line up this season. Of course, theres only so much we can gather from these games as the experimental lineups and lower pace don’t provide an accurate representation of how we’ll play when the season properly starts, but it gives us a good look at some of our recent signings and what we can expect of them.

Our first friendly was yesterday, a game against Karpaty Lviv which ended in a 1-1 draw. Giakoumakis was the goal scorer for us in this game and from most accounts it sounds like he got off to a promising start. I’m expecting pretty good things from him this season seeing as he looked quite promising this past season. We’ve seen players in his situation before, arriving at the team with high expectations only to ultimately let us down, but the talent is definitely there with Giakoumakis.

 

Our second friendly which took place earlier today was against a familiar opponent: Korona Kielce. We played them in a friendly last summer as well, a game which AEK won by a score of 2-0. Our result was less impressive today with us winning 1-0, but again there was apparently some impressive play from a lot of our players. Klonaridis scored a wonderful goal and has definitely provided us with reason to be excited for this season. He also looked good this past season and I have a feeling we could see some good play up front with Mantalos, Giakoumakis, and Klonaridis linking up well. I’m not yet sure if Klonaridis and Giakoumakis will be playing similar roles but if theres a way to have them both playing, we could definitely be in good shape offensively.

 

There have also been some singings since my last post, the three most notable being Marko Livaja, Uros Cosic, and Arnor Traustason. Agonasport have a nice writeup on the three players here. Traustason definitely sounds extremely promising, but Cosic also has some solid experience for someone on the younger side.