Archive for Mantalos

Apollon Smirnis 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Greek Football with tags , , , on October 21, 2018 by alexaek

The last Superleague win for AEK came on the 29th of September when we beat OFI 3-0. It was a bit of a relief to see us return to winning ways then when we beat Apollon 2-0 yesterday through goals from Mantalos and Livaja. The match itself wasn’t as straight forward for AEK as I was expecting it to be. We were clearly the stronger side though Apollon were fairly tight in defense and managed a few attacks of their own. Our biggest downfall though was our decisiveness in front of goal, something that has been affecting us for the past month or two. We’ve got a good defense and our midfield is up to the task as well but it seems like we’re still missing one key ingredient up front.

Mantalos’ goal was a beauty and Livaja’s came as a huge relief since up until that point, I was slightly worried Apollon might snatch a last minute draw just like we did against Olympiakos a couple weeks back. Thankfully they didn’t, and we managed to grab an important 3 points. Olympiakos lost early today which keeps them near us in the standings though PAOK managed to win the Thesaloniki derby which unfortunately sees them move further ahead.

As some of you may have noticed already, we were recently docked 3 points for some fan incidents during the AEK – Olympiakos match. AEK’s appeal was rejected however the team is now taking the case to the CAS court with hopes of the punishment being deemed inappropriate. Olympiakos fans were also involved in some incidents following their loss to OFI today, so it will be interesting to the see how the League handles that, and whether they give them the same punishment as they did to us ( 3 point deduction and two games with no supporters). Many eyebrows will be raised if Olympiakos somehow manage to come away without any form of punishment similar to what we received.

 

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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.

AEK to Face Celtic in Scotland Tomorrow

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, Champions League with tags , , , on August 7, 2018 by alexaek

Our first real test of the season is upon us as we are set to take on Celtic in Glasgow tomorrow evening. Its incredibly tough to predict how this one could turn out since we have yet to see AEK play a competitive match this season. Celtic, meanwhile, have already played four Champions League qualifying matches and one league match and while the season is still young for them, they seem to be off to a good start.

One thing we have going for us is that we seem to have the momentum in our favour when it comes to facing Scottish opposition:

 

On the other hand, its now official that Mantalos won’t play in tomorrow’s match. Goes without saying that this will be a huge blow to us. On top of that, I’ve heard that Celtic are a pretty tricky team going forward so we’ll definitely have our work cut out for us defensively.

If all goes well though, we could be heading back to Athens with a result that at least sets us up for progression to the next round. Realistically, there is no reason for us to not have a chance at getting through this round. If anything, I would say its 50-50 and could go either way, so lets hope we make the best of this chance to see AEK play some Champions League football for the first time in over a decade!

Champions Again, 24 Years Later!

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2018 by alexaek

I know, I know, its not official yet as we’re still (!) waiting on the court case regarding the PAOK-AEK match in Toumba. But, its hart to not feel like we’re champions following the scenes that were a result of our 2-0 victory over Levadeiakos.

In front of 70,000 cheering and chanting supporters, we practically sealed our 12th Championship in history, and our first since the 1993-1994 season. Bakasetas was the hero today as he scored both goals, including one from the penalty spot. The highlight of the game though is when Mantalos made his way onto the pitch, 172 days since he last played a match for AEK after recovering from a serious knee injury.

Its amazing to think we’ve finally achieved this considering where we were playing not that long ago. As Tzanetopoulos said, the team has been dreaming about this moment from when they were playing in the 3rd division and it has finally happened!

Theres a lot that can be said about what happened today in Athens, but I’ll let some video footage do the talking.

I was relieved to see that the supporters in the stands didn’t cause any trouble during and after the match. I was sure that just a few flares or a few fans storming the pitch afterwards would have had some teams demanding some kind of punishment for AEK.

Instead of causing any trouble in the stadiums, our supporters left the more “rambunctious” celebrations for the streets of Nea Filadelfia.

The celebrations inside the locker room meanwhile were equally enthusiastic:

Theres not much that can be said really after a day like this. All I can say is that this team deserves credit. The players, the staff, Jimenez, Melissanidis, everyone has done an incredible job to get this far. We’ve all but won the league, we’re in the Cup Final, we were undefeated in the Europa League, its hard to remember a better time to be an AEK supporter in recent memory. Lets just hope the court case goes favorably for us so that we can well and truly host a fiesta like we did back in Nea Filadelfia!

Panionios 0-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2017 by alexaek

Well that was a little too close for comfort. It wasn’t until 80 minutes in to the game that we got the winning goal by Araujo but the 3 points are what matter most as far as I’m concerned.

This game was a crucial one for a few reasons. First of all we desperately needed a win seeing as its been weeks since we’ve won a match in the league and my confidence in the team was starting to take a hit. On top of that, today’s result gives us a great chance to regain some ground in the standings and put some distance between us and Olympiakos after PAO won their derby against the Reds yesterday by a score of 1-0. With our win today we currently sit in 2nd with 17 points, two behind Atromitos who are in 1st with 19. That could change tomorrow depending on how PAOK’s game with Tripolis goes but regardless of what happens there, we now find ourselves up 3 points over Olympiakos which is always nice to see.

It wasn’t an easy game, which is to be expected seeing as playing against Panionios in Nea Smyrni is a match that can often go either way. Today though, AEK were clearly the better team and if it wasnt for some amazing saves by the Panionios keeper we could have comfortably won this game 2-0 or 3-0. The team did well overall, but we still need more composure in the box.

Defensively we were pretty sound and managed to get the ball back in our control with relative ease. Aside from a few long balls or balls in from set plays, Panionios never really looked too close to scoring.

Our midfield also looked pretty good and what I liked to see was that we mixed things up in the middle of the pitch. We would slow things down at times only to then launch a quick attack from a bunch of one touch passes which would lead to the Panionios defenders scrambling back to their positions. It seemed to work most of the time, but I thought the closer we got to the net the more predictable we became as most attacks often ended up on the wings. We definitely had our chances and as I mentioned earlier some great goalkeeping was all the really kept Panionios in it.

Unfortunately it wasn’t all good for news for AEK. Mantalos, who had another great game for AEK, had to leave the pitch later in the match after appearing to be in much discomfort. Xrays will take place tomorrow to determine just how serious the injury is, but the early reports don’t sound good.

Today’s game wasn’t the only match we played this week. We also had a Cup game earlier in the week on Thursday, against 3rd division side Apollon Larissa. Its safe to say that it was clear the team we were playing against was a 3rd division after we comfortably breezed past them with a score of 7-0. The game had a feel of a friendly really but it doesn’t hurt the confidence of the team to see some goals go in.

The whole game for those who wish to watch it is available here:

Alternatively a highlight video is also available:

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.