Archive for Mantalos

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:

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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.

AEK 3-0 Brugge

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2017 by alexaek

Back in the Group Stages After Six Years

Its been six years since AEK last played in the group stages of the Europa League but that droubt will soon be coming to an end. After a dominant performance in Athens, AEK have confirmed their return and they made sure to make a statement with today’s match.

Reading the comments of supporters all morning leading up to the game, I could sense the optimism right away. From all accounts it sounds like the atmosphere in the stands was fantastic, as if the fans knew right away that there would be a happy ending to today’s match. Sure enough they weren’t disappointed as not only did we come away with the result we were looking for, but we did it in such a confident way. I was listening to the radio as I was walking home from work just after the game had finished and commentators had mentioned that this was possibly one of the more impressive displays they’ve seen from AEK in a European game.

Credit first of all has to go to Jimenez as it sounds like he got the lineup just right today. Defensively it sounds like we gave Brugge very little space and the lack of quality chances they had attests to that. Equally impressive was how we handled our attack as we were able to create numerous high quality scoring opportunities. Lazaros had a fantastic game which was capped off with his opening goal from the penalty spot. Simoes also had an equally great game with AEK365 going as far as giving him a 10 out of 10 rating. They say that this was possibly the best game of his career and I can see some reasoning behind the enthusiasm. Afterall, he scored two goals and was responsible for drawing the penalty that lead to our first goal.

Klonaridis and Mantalos were also extremely effective along with the rest of our attack but one attacking player who stood out even more was Almeida. Its been a while since we’ve seen a genuinely strong performance from him but today he seemed to give it his all as he set up some close calls and also came awfully close to scoring a goal or two himself. Its clear his technique and awareness on the pitch is still there if he choses to apply himself.

Overall the whole team deserves credit from what I’ve been reading. One commentator said its one thing to get the win but its another to go all out and continue searching for goals even after going a goal or two up. People online were worried at half time, noting that we had to be careful not to get too comfortable and to not give Brugge too much space, which was a very valid point. PAO were leading Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at half time last week and ended up losing 2-3. Having said that, not only did we not give Brugge too much space, but we continued to push forward and were rewarded with a third goal to all but seal the win.

Of course, its from this point on that the going really gets tough. Brugge were never expected to be an easy team, and it certainly wasn’t a walk in the park, but what lies ahead is where things start to get interesting. The list of teams that we could possibly get drawn against from the first pool almost seems like a pool of teams for a Champions League draw. First pool teams include: Arsenal, Lazio, Milan, Lyon, Villareal, and Athletic Bilbao. Of course there are a few “easier” teams too but the majority of teams in the first pool are all names that would make most teams in Europe worry. Fortunately the second and third pool consist of teams who I think we should, on paper, be able to compete with. Everton is a possible team from the second pool and while they would be a tough match, I would love to see us get some revenge for the last time we played them. I remember living in Athens at the time and going to the game where we lost at home against Everton and one of my teachers at school was a big Everton supporter. He never let me forget it for a week… all I can say is that I would love to look him up if we do come across them in the group stages and manage to get a win.

The draw takes place tomorrow at 2:00 PM Athens time. I’m not certain but I believe a live stream is usually available for those who wish to watch it. If there is a stream, it would most likely be available on UEFA’s website.

AEK Start Season With a Win

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Greek Football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , on August 20, 2017 by alexaek

A 2-0 win today means that we get off to a good start this season, although the game wasn’t exactly pretty for much of the time.

We got off to a pretty good start after Traustason was brought down in the box which resulted in a penalty being awarded to AEK. Marcos Paulo was lucky to get only a yellow when he really should have been sent off, but Panaitolikos weren’t so fortunate as Almedia comfortably converted the penalty shot to put us ahead fourteen minutes in.

The game never really picked up from then on for either side though Panaitolikos did come close on a couple occasions. The next real turning point came when Almeida was sent off with a straight red for elbowing Chantakia in the face. At first I thought that it was a harsh decision but the more I look at the replays, the more it seems like the right call. Either way it really wasn’t a smart move by Almeida as the red gave Panaitolikos some new found energy which they quickly converted into more chances. Some poor finishing on Panaitolikos’ part along with some good saves by Anestis were pretty much all that kept us in the game for the remainder of the first half.

The second half saw another red, this time for Panaitolikos after Marcos Paulo received a second yellow. It was at this point where the balance started to tip in AEK’s favour again, ultimately resulting in a second goal for AEK. Johansson was the scorer after Mantalos sent a pass across to the Swede across an empty goal. The goal was originally called back supposedly for offside, leaving myself and the commentators rather confused. Thankfully the decision was overturned and the goal ultimately awarded to AEK after replays showed that there was no offside and no foul on the play. It was nice to see that instant replays, which are being piloted in the Greek and Russian leagues at the moment, might actually work in Greece.

The game ultimately ended 2-0 and while it wasn’t always pretty, its a great three points to start the season off with. The game was played in an empty OAKA as a punishment for the incidents that took place in last season’s Cup Final so to come away with a win without home support and playing a man down for much of the first half was a relief.

Overall I’d have to say that Anestis actually looked pretty good, and our defense wasn’t terrible. It was our offense that really let us down again, just as in the games against CSKA. We struggled to really create many worthwhile chances and there was an obvious lack of creativity going forward. Even the set plays were a disappointment as they more often than not ended up being intercepted by a defender. We might be lucky to get the three points today but without a noticeable improvement to our offense I can see us struggling to score goals against a lot of teams in the league this season. Araujo would be a great addition to the club right about now…

AEK Returns to Champions League

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on May 31, 2017 by alexaek

After a ten year absence, AEK has the chance to book a place in the group stages of the Champions League next season. Of course it wont be easy as there is the potential of some big clubs standing in our way, but even just the chance to see us play in some Champions League qualifiers is an exciting prospect.

So, how did we end up here? Well it ultimately comes as a result of our win against Panionios today in Nea Smirni. The game got off to a rocky start with Panionios scoring first but it was clear AEK weren’t going to standby and gift a win to Panionios with the chances they were creating. Panionios didn’t end up holding on to their lead for long though as 13 minutes after they opened the scoring, AEK responded with a goal of their own courtesy of Mantalos.

The game got a little more interesting in the second half when Panionios had a man sent off which was followed by Lazaros getting a straight red. With ten players on each side, it was anyone’s game but it was Araujo who, in what was most likely his last game for AEK, scored the winner with a nicely taken header.

The win was a critical one since PAOK were right on our tails in the standings but Panathinaikos’ win in Toumba took off some of the pressure. With the playoffs having drawn to a close, we finished with 12 points from the six games; not perfect, but it was enough for the team to accomplish what it set out to.

Aside from clinching a place in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League, the game was also notable for quite likely being Araujo’s last with the team. I say “likely” because while I doubt we’ll see him back with the club next season, I’m still somewhat hopeful something can be worked out. Its clear he has enjoyed his time with the club (this was made even more evident today after he mentioned his love for the club and his desire to return as soon as possible) and he clearly has the potential to play a massive role in the team. His price tag is high but even if we cant outright buy him, maybe he’ll put some pressure on Las Palmas to extend his stay in Athens where he’ll have much more of an opportunity to develop as a player.

The game could also have been Jimenez’s final match in charge of the club. I certainly hope this isn’t the case as hes turned the club around significantly, but he hasn’t committed to the team yet and there have yet to be any negotiations between Jimenez and management. It would be a huge shame to see him leave after this season: hes established himself once again at AEK, he has gained the trust of the players, and he has brought some much needed stability to the club. I’m not sure what his demands will be in order for him to stick around next season, but I’m cautiously optimistic that they can be reached.

Highlights of the match:

Supporters chanting Araujo’s name after the match:

AEK 1-0 Panathinaikos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Return to Better Days

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Greek Cup, Greek Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 14, 2017 by alexaek

If you’re reading this, you probably noticed that I never wrote anything about our 2-1 loss to PAOK in the Cup final. Really it came down to not wanting to write anything since that game was a disaster from before kickoff. It started with the terrible organization, with the game almost being cancelled since the seats didn’t have numbers on them. Then came the fighting between “supporters” within the stadium as well as outside of it. Of course we had the game itself, which was a disappointment on every level thanks to our awful performance and the offside game winner for PAOK.

Overall, not the kind of final I was hoping for. Certainly not the kind of final that will be remembered fondly throughout Greece by fans of the sport aside aside from the PAOK fans.

Thankfully, we were able to somewhat put all that behind us with not one great result, but two. It started with our basketball team managing, after nine years, to finally beat PAO. Even better, the win tied up our semi-final series with them at one game apiece. It was a tight game until the end, as many of our derbies have been this season, but a huge win regardless which gives us enormous momentum heading into the third game. The win only ties the series and we still have plenty of work to do, but to finally get past this hurtle and win a game against our cross town rivals shows that its definitely possible. Will it be enough to get us to the finals? Well I hate to say that PAO are still favourites but at this point nothing is guaranteed anymore.

The day only got better from that point on as we headed north to take on PAOK for the first round of the playoffs. We clearly came out seeking to make a statement after the loss to PAOK in the cup and for the majority of the first half we were easily the stronger team. As the commentator on the radio put it at one point, AEK seemed like the home team as we outplayed PAOK throughout the pitch. The breakthrough came early on as Didac, who had a great game along with most of our defense, latched on to a perfect ball from Mantalos and neatly tucked in the finish. His goal would prove to the deciding factor as neither side would find a way to score from then on, but there were certainly chances.

The game was a great way to put everything from the cup behind us as not only does it get us a huge three points away in Toumba, but it puts us first in the playoff table after Panionios and PAO tied earlier in the day (though Panionios were unfortunate not to come away with the win). Its still early but to already find ourselves in first after starting with fewer points than PAOK and PAO is the best outcome we could have hoped for after the first round of playoffs. Our next match is at home against Panionios, a game I feel like we should comfortably take, while PAO host PAOK in Athens. I could personally see that game going either way as PAO will be seeking to get some revenge of their own after being knocked out of the cup while PAOK will be looking to recover lost ground after losing, not to mention they’ll also be out to prove that they were legitimately the better team against PAO in the cup semi-finals.