Archive for Manolas

Cup Bound

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Basketball, Dellas, Derby, Greek Cup, Greek Football with tags , , , , , on April 26, 2016 by alexaek

Another game I wasn’t able to watch but from what I’ve read so far, it sounds like our playing left much to be desired. But, in the end we did enough to get through like I knew we would and now its all or nothing against Olympiakos in the final.

Speaking of finals, the game will be taking place next Saturday, the 7th of May (is it May already?). We were told by Kontonis that we would be getting a foreign ref for the game but as has consistently been the case with everything that the minister has said so far this season, that turned out to be yet another false promise. Surprised? I’m not.

As for today’s game, I get the impression that it was a similar performance to the last time we played Atromitos in Peristeri. A couple attacks, fewer chances, and another unconvincing game from our squad. According to Dellas, Atromitos deserved to go through and were knocked out only because of bad luck. Manolas on the other hand claimed that AEK were the better team. I’m going to go ahead and guess that both teams were equally mediocre at best and that if either team played the Final as they played today, then they wouldn’t stand a chance against Olympiakos.

I’m scared of the Final to be honest. Excited that were in it, happy that it pretty much guarantees us European football next season, but still scared. And not Olympiakos is a great team. As we saw earlier in the season, they are beatable. But as beatable as Olympiakos are, we have proven to be equally unreliable and thats what scares me most. I know that if the team gels well during the game, if we can shut down Olympiakos and generate some pressure in their end, we can get a result. But if we go out and play like we did during some of our weaker performances this season, then we will be in for quite the embarrassment.

Until next Saturday, I’m remaining optimistic. The beauty of a Cup final is that its one match, all or nothing, and trends from the rest of the season often tend to matter little. I know we are capable of beating them or at least able to put up a good fight. If the last Cup final against Olympiakos was anything to go by, we could very well see a pretty entertaining match.

Unfortunately, it seems as though the match will be played in a completely empty stadium and not even with students in the stands as Kontonis suggested would be the case (look at that, another “lie”). A Cup final between these two teams without the two sets of supporters will never be the same, even if it means the inevitable threat of violence is averted. Its unfortunate for our supporters who have waited so long to see AEK get the chance of winning some meaningful silverware but most of all, I’m afraid the game might not have the same energy about it that it normally would. That’s not to say that the players won’t give it their all, but this is one of the biggest derbies in Greece, and in a Cup final; take away the supporters and the game loses almost all of its meaning. Hopefully we still see a good game regardless.

A slight change of topic, but our basketball team is playing game three of the three game series against PAOK tomorrow. I believe the game is at 6:45 Athens time, but I could be mistaken. Either way, I’ll have the chance to watch it (assuming I find a stream) and thank goodness for that since this is, without a doubt, the biggest game of the season for the team so far. We win and we advance to the Final 4, we lose and… well, its over for us.

AEK 1-0 Atromitos… And a Whole Lot More.

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Dellas, football, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , on April 20, 2016 by alexaek

Its been a while since I last posted, partly due to stuff piling up during these last two weeks of school, but also because I picked up a flu/food poisoning last week. Anyways, I’ve finally found some time to get together a post and really, its well overdue. Considering I expected this past week to be a rather uneventful one as everyone settled in before the playoffs, it instead turned out to be one of the more dramatic weeks we’ve seen all season. I was going to start with the most recent event, our 1-0 cup win against Atromitos, but its an awkward place to start without first mentioning some other stories from earlier on. So instead, I’ll make my way up to today, starting from about this point last week.

-It was announced that the Cup would be starting again around this time last week. No surprises really, since I think most people expected Kontonis to revert on his decision because lets face it, push comes to shove, he’d never stand up to FIFA/UEFA, just like Tsipras ultimately backed down to the IMF/EU despite trying to show the same defiant spirit. The news of the Cup restarting caused a bit of a scramble since it meant that AEK all of a sudden had another target for the season aside from the playoffs, again. Of course, Kontonis refused fans for the semi-final games (which was why our game today was played behind closed doors), and if I understood correctly, the Cup Final will be played with only students in the stands. If I remember correctly, some of the Basket Cup Finals between Olympiakos and Panathinaikos were played in a similar way. Fair enough I suppose, but it really is a drag watching a game in an empty stadium. The whole thing feels like a practice between the two sides, and I’m sure the players can’t enjoy too much either.

-We lost against Levadeiakos in our last league game of the season, and by a score of 3-0. This game took place when I spent all day on the couch and couldn’t even move because I felt so terrible, so I didn’t end up watching it and I’m probably better off this way. Unfortunately, it didn’t sound like we were playing too badly really. We were controlling most of the ball and from what I was reading, we were creating chances. Unfortunately, as has been the case for AEK far too often this season, we struggled to score. Unsurprisingly, we suffered due to our inability to score in a painful and embarrassing way, letting in two own goals minutes apart from each other. Levadeiakos finished things off after some sloppy defending and poor decision making by Baroja in the second half, scoring their third and final goal in a game that both fans and players alike will want to forget as soon as possible. It was an unfortunate result, especially since there is little a team can do to regroup after having two quick own goals conceded. To make matters worse, PAO won their game 6-1, with Berg scoring five goals himself. If this is any indication of their form going into the playoffs, we could be in trouble. I’m hoping it was just a fluke…

 

-A couple days after the fiasco in Livadia, AEK’s management had a meeting with Poyet’s management, in an attempt to work out a deal that would see Poyet stay on as manager. Apparently, things didn’t go to well and from what I heard, Poyet’s management was asking for four million euros a season. He was a good coach, I appreciated a lot of what I did and I appreciated the fact that he seemed to enjoy the big wins as much as what we did. But four million a season is ridiculous, considering that kind of money could be spent on some very good players. Now, that number might not even be true, but what it is clearly true is that both sides failed to come to an agreement. I wasn’t expecting an agreement this early, especially not with so many important games coming up, but apparently Poyet was.

I felt like Poyet was a very professional man and coach, I expected him to do his job until after the season and then let things get worked out. Instead, not long after the meetings took place, he came out and released an announcement on his own, saying he wouldn’t be staying with AEK past the end of the season… I understand that he might not have been too happy, maybe he was expecting more. But I really see no excuse for coming out, a day before a semi-final game, and making an announcement like that on your own.

Clearly, the team wasn’t too happy about the announcement either. Within hours, the press was saying that Poyet had been fired and it wasn’t long after when AEK officially confirmed this. I’m disappointed since I was hoping for better, but I personally felt that it was clear from a while ago that Poyet wanted to leave Greece, particularly to try his luck in England again. I don’t blame him since after-all, the Superleague is a joke, and the Premier League is pretty exciting at the moment, but I was really expecting to see him leave on better terms. Oh well, so much for that…

 

-Finally we end up to where we are now, that is after beating Atromitos 1-0 in the first of two semi-final matches against the team led by Dellas. Manolas was our coach today for the second time this season, and I must say I was kind of amused seeing both teams run by former AEK centre backs.

We started off well, applying the pressure, forcing Atromitos to defend, and creating some chances. At one point the possesion stat was saying something around 80 percent for AEK, and it sure seemed that way. We gave Atromitos no chances of getting into the game which I was glad to see. Our passing was controlled and Mantalos and Johansson were linking up well. Galo and Vargas were also providing some options down the wings which we took advantage of a few times. Unfortunately for us, Aravidis wasn’t providing many options up front and the times he did get the ball anywhere near him, he never really looked like scoring.

As the first half continued on, our pace dropped and it never really picked up too much in the second half. We still managed to create a couple chances, and we still never gave Atromitos too much space, but the game made it clear again that we need better players up front. Our break finally came around the 74th minute, when Aravidis sent in a gorgeous ball that was perfectly placed for Mantalos, requiring just some contact with his head to get the ball on target. It was a break we needed, since any goal we can get going into a second match with Atromitos is an important one.

I didn’t feel like we played too badly, and we can definitely get past Atromitos in the next leg also. But really need to start looking more dangerous in front of goal. I don’t know if we would have been better off starting Pekhart today, but I know Djebbour certainly isn’t an option. He came on as a sub today and provided nothing, as usual. Even when he comes up with chances that the Djebbour of five years ago would have no problem putting away, he struggles to even get a shot off anywhere near target. I don’t know what has happened to him, but he certainly is not the answer we need.

AEK 5-1 Iraklis

Posted in AEK, Greek Cup, Manager, Superleague with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2015 by alexaek

Despite all the events of the past week, AEK managed to rebound in the best possible way. Not only did we manage to get the three points from the win, but we did it by playing some great football and scoring the most goals we’ve scored in one game for many years now.

I was somewhat nervous about the game for a few reasons. First of all, regardless of the fact that Iraklis also just came up from the second division, they are a team that can never be taken lightly. Plus, having just lost our coach, I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction the players were going to have. I’m very happy to see they were able to respond positively since I feel that it shows that the team definitely has some character. To come back from a heavy loss to our rivals and having your coach resign two days later, to come back from all that and play some of the best football they’ve played yet this season shows that there is definitely something good to build on with this team.

I only managed to have a working stream for part of the second half so I unfortunately missed all of our goals as they happened. I was able to follow the commentary online and on the radio though, and while it certainly helped that Iraklis were clearly not having a great day, there was no doubt that our attacking play was quite good. We seemed to have a lot of players who all found their form at once such as Barbosa and Vargas, but the key to this game was Mantalos. He didn’t manage to score a goal himself (though he did come close on a nice shot from far out), but he was heavily involved in almost all of the goals we scored. The game showed us just how important a role he can play when he is fit and in form and while it gives me some relief knowing we can make and finish chances, I also feel like we have such a wasted opportunity. With a player like Mantalos, who is able to read and set up plays so well, its such a shame that we did not invest a little more in some solid strikers, people who could latch on to the balls he sends in and finish consistently.

I’m not too sure how we looked defensively, partly because Iraklis had so few opportunities to create anything dangerous in our own ends. Kolovetsios played instead of Tzanetopoulos for the game, so I’ll be interested to see if Manolas sticks with Kolovetsios for the cup game this week as well.

Our next two games are a cup game away to Xanthi, and PAO away. Two tough games, but I’m actually confident we can get anywhere from four to six points of the two games. Xanthi will be tough but I feel like something special clicked last game and I certainly hope we can carry the momentum through to that game too. We’ve already played Xanthi away this season and while we didn’t end up scoring, we weren’t exactly outplayed either. With Mantalos on form, I’m sure we can get the win.

I’m without a doubt worried about the PAO game away, but PAO lost 3-1 today to PAOK, and derbies can always go either way. PAO’s form is nothing exceptional, and I actually don’t think they have a particularly great team this season. They’ll have  the advantage of playing at home, and they definitely have a few solid players, but I think if we play well then we can definitely compete pretty evenly with them.

For those who haven’t been following the news lately regarding our coaching situation, we are supposedly pretty close to signing Gus Poyet as our next manager. I’m not entirely familiar with him, but I know he has some experience in the Premier League which can’t be a bad thing. I know some people were hoping for a manager with more experience, but perhaps having someone younger with some Premier League experience might benefit us more in the end, especially as far as attracting new players is concerned. I’m hoping something will be wrapped up in the next few days, but on the other hand I like what Manolas did for our game against Iraklis (even though it was quite similar to the team Dellas was fielding) so I wouldn’t mind seeing him continue until just past the PAO game. I’m a bit worried that having a new coach come in now before such important games might affect the players a bit.

http://www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk/sport/football/sunderland-afc/sunderland-ex-manager-gus-poyet-wanted-by-aek-athens-1-7533800

Panionios 0-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, football, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2011 by alexaek

So, a lot has happened since my last post, and not much of it was good.

Before talking briefly about today’s match, Ill mention the other two we played this week, even though Id much rather not.

So, PAOK-AEK in Toumba. Of all the derbies we play each season, the PAOK one rarely gives as much trouble as others. Even Toumba, despite being filled with incredibly intimidating and passionate PAOK supporters, is a stadium AEK always seems to have a chance in. I cant seem to figure it out, but our record there these past few years has been quite good.

Things did change last weekend when we lost 3-0. Ill be honest with all of you, this was the first time I closed the computer early during an AEK match. Things weren’t looking good right from the start, our defence was terrible, we were lacking creativity, and as soon as PAOK went one up as a result of some terrible man marking (or lack of, rather), I gave up. I knew we had no chance of getting back in the game. We didn’t have Roger playing (the man responsible for assisting two of our four goals against Xanthi a few days before) and we were creating nothing, going nowehere. PAOK on the other hand, who have got off to a very good start this season and are playing some attractive football, clearly seemed the better team, and I couldn’t see them giving up their lead. And seeing as I had other stuff to do at home, I figured it wasn’t worth watching the rest, so I listened on the radio. As I expected, things only got worse.

Aside from our terrible defending, it was so clear in this game, as it was the next, and especially today’s match with Panionios, that we lack creativity. Despite his attitude and on-and-off performances, I would give anything to have someone like Scocco, and even Manduca, back in our squad. Roger can certainly create, but he isn’t enough, we need someone who can get the ball forward on his own, someone who can pull defenders out and then ease past them, and someone who can score after doing all this work. Scocco was someone who could do this, and even when he didn’t score, he was a nightmare for defenders.

Sure, Leonardo has played great this season, but he isn’t nearly the same level. Jose Carlos has the potential, but I havent seen too much from him yet. Sialmas wont get us anywhere. Belleck works hard and has some speed, but still cannot move with the ball the way Scocco could. Gudjonsen is way too old, and has done nothing in my opinion to warrant the money we pay him.

We have nobody going forward that can open up defenders, create plays and opportunities, someone who will get the ball up there, and will get it in the net. Its quite sad really to see how low AEK has fallen, considering even last year we had a player Like Scocco. Before then we had a Blanco who could score anything, and a young Libe, with Rivaldo pulling the strings. Go further back and we had players like Nikolaidis, Tsiartas, Mavros, Papaioannou. Sure, these players all play different positions, but the point Im trying to make is AEK has always been blessed with great attacking talent… these days, we simply dont have that. Yes, Leonardo is a fine player, Belleck has potential, but aside from these guys, we have nobody. Libe is too old, and can only be used a sub these days, Gudjonsen can’t really do too much.

No matter who we have as coach, until we have a team that can be dangerous up front, we wont be getting the results we want. Sure, Manolo is to blame for our poor results this season and last, more so maybe than our players. But I think it was especially obvious from our game today against Panionios, that this AEK team cannot go far. We have a good group of players with young talents like Leo and Manolas, experience in Dellas and Libe, but we need more. Desperately.

So, I’ve gotten a bit off topic by now. Maybe its because I dont quite feel like talking about our match against Sturm, but I guess I will.

First game of the season with fans in oaka. We didn’t get a good result against PAOK a few days earlier, but we were hoping for something here, and with Carlos’ goal early in the second half, we thought we’d clinched the three points. But, thanks to a pointless red card for Dellas, we let our lead slip away as well as all three points. I’m not going to talk too much about the game, but I would like to say that its incredibly disappointing to lose a game like this, in this way. We were the better team, we dominated throughout the first half. I would even go as far as saying that Sturm was the worst European team Ive seen AEK play in a while. They were nowhere, they could not create a chance, their defending was terrible. A stronger AEK team, such as our team of 07-08, would have taken this game with a 3-0 scoreline. And thats what disappoints me the most. AEK should not be losing these games, these games should be a fairly easy three points. Even the away match to Anderlecht. A previous AEK team with a better defense could have comfortably gotten at least a draw.

So, I wont say anymore about that match. We’re pretty much out of Europe already and its only the second day of October. Wonderful…

And finally, Ill mention our game today against Panionios. Poor match, terrible match rather, but the result was great. Panionios has given us a hard time lately, especially in Nea Smyrni. And to get a win like this, in the 92nd minute, feels just wonderful. We played terribly (Ive heard people mention it was the worst game from AEK they can recall seeing), only created one or two chances, but we got the three points away from home. And thanks to Oly beating PAOK today, we’re tied for first (though Oly have played a game less). I know its still early and I can’t see us staying first for much longer, but hey, at least its something.

 

Xanthi 3-4 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 22, 2011 by alexaek

Yep, 2 for 2 in the championship already. Who would have thought? Certainly not me (if I read correctly, we had 2 points by this time last season). And really, THESE are the games we must be winning. Take the 07-08 season for example, where easily avoidable home losses to teams like Iraklis and Panionios cost us the championship. Sure, derbies can go either way, but its beating the weaker opponents that counts most to ensuring success in the championship. And we’ve certainly done that so far, against two teams (Ergotelis and Xanthi) who have been known to give us a hard time when they wanted to.

Just by reading the score, two things are obvious. Our offense? Excellent! Our defense? Not so much.

We were brilliant going forward from midfield up. Vargas had a stand out game and is really making a tremendous impression on all of us. He’s technical, knows the game, and, as was evident from the game, can certainly finish.

Guerreiro, who we haven’t seen play in a while, also had a phenomenal game, with two assists. Sure, he is still a slow player, but his vision is excellent, and so were his set pieces (though the wind did help on some occasions). Lets face it, were stuck with him, and are still paying him, we might as well get some game time from him. Im not getting my hopes too high just yet though, this wouldn’t be the first time he impressed only to have a poor performance in the next game. But if he keeps this up, he can definitely be a useful player this season.

Belleck? Impressive once again. Fast, plays well with the team, had a great chance to score, and also got an assist (to add to his other from the Ergotelis game). Fantastic singing for us (Im gonna say he’s the best signing of the season along with Vargas).

Libe, Eidur, overall we were brilliantly going forward. 4 goals away to Xanthi is never easy but they managed it (its always great to see AEK score 4, especially in an away game). Afterall, this is the same Xanthi team that only barely lost to Olympiakos in Karaiskaki the week before. And that was only after they received a red card and had 5 minutes of extra time added to the game (of course Oly went on to score the winning goal in the 4th minute of extra time… convenient isn’t it?). So well done to our attackers.

Unfortunately, our defending was scary at times. It seems there is little communication going on these days, especially with the back four. Manolas had a poor game, and overall we were not effective at defending at all. Let too much slip by, sloppy and poor judgement from our defenders. I’m not sure what its gonna take, but they really must tighten up. The goals we conceeded could have been avoided, and when you’re up by two with so little time left, you really shouldn’t be letting goals in like that. Its worrisome that they managed to let Xanthi back in the game so many times.

Thankfully, Arabatzis played between the posts. Slightly at fault for the first goal, but he saved us a few times, notably on a one on one in the second half. Unfortunately, he had a tough game with the wind up north (Ive never seen wind like that at a football match). On more than one occasion after taking a goal kick, the ball would simply hover in the air and then slowly drift back toward the goal it came from.

SO. 2 for 2. Well done to Manolo for lining us up well finally and making the right subs at the right time. Defending needs work though, and urgently. Still, we’re in a great position so far, and confidence should be high. We’ll need it afterall, as we face PAOK in Toumba this weekend. A win here and things will be looking very good for us.

Oh, and of course, the goals from the match (Vargas’ goal was phenomenal):

 

 

And one final note. Once again, well done to our supporters. Amazing away support yet again (not long after the fantastic support they offered our team in Belgium). Nobody beats AEK supporters.

 

 

PAOK-AEK Live Updates

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League, Non-AEK Football/Soccer, Soccer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by alexaek

I’ll try to keep some live updates of the match here for those without a way to watch it. From what I know, the three links below will show a stream of the match:

http://aektv.weebly.com/

http://aektv.weebly.com/aektv2.html

http://aektv.weebly.com/aektv1.html

I’ll add more streams if I come across any.

PAO is currently beating Oly Volou 2-0 with about twenty minutes to go. I was hoping PAO would lose this one or it would end up in a draw but our fate is still entirely in our hands (the match has now ended with a 3-0 victory for PAO). Either way, tonight will be a huge game.

Our starting XI for the match includes Saja, Georgeas, Manolas, Dellas, Karabellas, Makos, Michel, Diop, Lagos, Scocco, and Blanco. Arabatzis, Nasuti, Mateos, Roger, Leonardo, Dadomo, and Baha are the substitutes.

Game has started. PAOK came close off a free kick about three minutes in.

PAOK seem to have much more control of the game than they did over the weekend so far (only six minutes in).

Great chance for AEK after a defensive error by PAOK but Scocco couldn’t get a good delivery into the box.

GOOOAL! Scocco! 13th minute!! Long rage free kick, tricky bounce in front of Chalkias.

Saja playing risky at the back so far. I hope he tightens up.

Huge chance for PAOK with a critical save by Saja. And another huge chance for AEK in the 22nd. Blanco is in the mood for scoring it seems, hopefully he’ll keep up his good record in Toumba.

Freekick for PAOK in a very dangerous location. 1-1, 28th minute after Garcia’s freekick finds it way under our wall and into the bottom corner of the net.

Flares on the pitch at the 31st minute so the ref has temporarily paused the match. It seems it will continue again.

Good header from Dellas off of a corner in the 33rd, save from Chalkias.

Penalty for PAOK, and goal. 2-1.

Very close chance for AEK off a Blanco header in the 38th minute, ball wasn’t directed well enough.

We are very shaky at the back so far.

Half time, 2-1 for PAOK. Not nearly good enough from us, far too many mistakes. We’ve still managed to create chances, but we must tighten up for the second half.

Nice shot from Michel after being set up by Blanco, just out.

Close for PAOK after a Vierinha shot rebounded off of Georgeas’ foot.

First substitution of the match, Baha on for Lagos. And now Leonardo on for Blanco. And I must say, the diving by the paok players is really getting quite ridiculous.

Red card for Makos.

Third change, Roger on for Scocco. Can’t say Im too happy about this choice.

Red card for Garcia. Disgusting behaviour from him as usual, but this is the worst Ive seen yet from that animal.

2-1, fulltime.

A Fine Weekend To Be AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Champions League, football, Greek Cup, Greek Football, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League, Non-AEK Football/Soccer, Soccer, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2011 by alexaek

So, just a little over a week after we won our first Cup in so many years (despite the rather depressing events which followed after the match), us AEK fans were treated to yet another pleasing weekend. This time, however, the attention was not only on our football team, but also our Handball guys, a group of players who have fought hard and gave everything they had to offer to the club for the past three years. Saturday afternoon, our players took on PAOK in Thesaloniki, a match which was a must win if they wanted to claim the Championship. And, as is the norm recently, AEK emerged victorious over our rivals from the North. That’s right folks, only six years after our handball club was formed, we, for the first time in our history, are champions of Greece!

I went to wait for the players last night in Nea Filadelfia along with thousands of other AEK supporters and though the bus’ arrival was delayed by AEK fans from all over Greece (almost literally, as the bus had to make numerous stops on its way down so supporters could congratulate the players), the players received a reception that only true Champions deserve! It wasn’t until about 2:30 in the morning that the bus arrived in Filadelfia, along with a caravan of motorcycles and flares from fans who greeted the bus at the tolls outside Athens, but the celebrations were phenomenal. The entire street outside the offices of the Amateur division of AEK which runs the handball club was blocked off by bon fires and thousands of AEK fans who sang non stop for the entire hour or so that I was there after the bus arrived (and they were still singing when I left at 3:30) while the players were on the balcony of the offices with the trophy, joining in the celebrations as well. And I’ll tell everyone reading this post one thing: These players on our handball teams are true AEK supporters, people who love the club as much as we do! I hope they, along with us, will always remember this day, as it was a true celebration of what it means to be AEK!

As for the match itself, it was close, very close. We managed to take a firm lead quite early in the game thanks to some fantastic attacking, however PAOK slowly managed to cut back the lead as the match progressed. Towards the end, however, PAOK actually managed to take the lead, and with only 15 seconds left, they were leading 22-21. However, AEK, who refused to give up, managed to tie the game up at 22-22- with only seven seconds left before the one and only Christoforos Bakaoukas scored the game winning goal to clinch the Championship! I honestly can’t think of a better way to win the championship than by beating PAOK in their own home in such a way. If you watch the video below, you even see the PAOK fans calling their players champions as they were so sure the win was theirs.

So, on to football. We started the game (at the lovely time of 9:45 on a Sunday night) knowing PAOK had beaten PAO 2-1 in Toumba, meaning a win for us would bring us to first place in the playoffs. I’m not sure if this was what the players were thinking, or maybe they were inspired by their cup win last weekend, but they came out strong and seemed intent on showing no mercy to the scum team from Volos. Lovely passing football and complete control of the match was all we saw from AEK from the first 10 minutes or so, with Leonardo playing a very active role in the match from early on. For the most part, our positioning was superb and the players were really gelling well together, with Leonardo forcing the ball into the box with his runs and Michel distributing superbly.

As the game progressed the tempo did drop slightly, though Olympiakos Volou rarely managed to gain much of an upperhand. Having said that, and despite the pressure we were applying, we still urgently needed a goal. Sure, we were playing some attractive football, and the players were clearly doing things right, but in front of the net we were simply not good enough for much of the match. The fact that our only goal of the match came from a penalty is an obvious indicator of this. However, I feel its too early to worry. We were creating chances, we came very close on a number of times and even hit the cross bar on one occasion, and with a bit more confidence and decisiveness in front of goal, we shouldn’t have as much of a hard time scoring in our upcoming matches.

And while I’m on the topic of scoring (or lack of), I feel obliged to bring up a certain player by the name of Nabil Baha. USELESS. He could hardly run after the first half, was clearly not match fit (or possibly just lazy), and missed two clear goalscoring opportunities (opportunities which Blanco would have had no problem scoring). I thank Baha for his goal in the Cup final, but the guy cannot play for us anymore. What Jimenez sees in him I will never know, but I really hope to see Blanco start the next match instead of him.

As for the rest of our players, a handful in my opinion deserve much credit. Dellas, Manolas, Georgeas, Michel, and Diop all played vital roles in our win today. Dellas brings experience to our team that very few players could provide while Manolas alongside him at centre back was simply solid in defending. Georgeas, though he may have been slightly sloppy at times, provided another dimension to our play down the right flank and, as always, defended with passion. Diop was simply solid at the back, providing cover for our defenders and midfielders. Also may have been sloppy and careless at times, but he still manages to hold on to the ball well, win it back when we lose it, and is always moving, always looking to do something, whether it be winning the ball back or providing cover for a player. Michel also provided a vital role today as his ball distribution was by far the best of anyone else today. He may not have played many fancy defense ripping through balls like Rivaldo, but his passes were always calculated and well placed.

Unfortunately, Libe was forced to leave the match as he picked up an injury. I have no idea at the moment how serious it is, or if he will be ready for the next match, however I truly hope we will be match fit by next Thursday as we will definitely be lacking without him up front.

So, not sure what else should be mentioned. First place in the playoffs and it looks like were heading in the right direction if we want to reach Champions League qualification. PAO were simply dreadful in their game with PAOK, so to be honest, I’m kind of looking forward to our game with them on Thursday because I’m confident we can get a win if we play solid.

Its getting late here, so tomorrow I’ll upload some videos and pictures from the celebrations in Nea Filadelfia.