Archive for PAO

Another Catching Up Post

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Jimenez with tags , , , , , , on November 28, 2017 by alexaek

So I’ve been away from my computer for the past couple of weeks which accounts for the lack of posts recently. Having said that, its been a busy two weeks for the team, so I’ll go over whats happened on the pitch (and off it) in the time between now and my last post.

I’ll start with our derby against PAO two weekends ago. The game followed our 1-0 win against PAOK a week before and was a big test for the team as it was our first away derby of the season. Playing a derby away from home is never easy, but we had a decent chance here to get a result considering PAO’s poor form leading up to the match. Things didn’t get off to a great start however with PAO scoring only 10 minutes in to make the score 1-0. As has often been the case this season, we conceded from yet another set play when Moledo was left with an easy header into a mostly open net.

Thankfully, we would keep PAO at bay for the rest of the match and truth be told, they never really looked that much like scoring again from that point on. In fact, AEK were actually the better team, registering 8 chances compared to PAO’s 4, and controlling 55% of the possession. It might not have been our prettiest game of the season (in fact it was a pretty disappointing derby overall), but just before the final whistle was blown, we managed to get one back and level the score at 1-1. It was enough to salvage a vital point thanks to our goalscorer Marko Livaja (our most inform player this season).

As is often the case with derbies, this game also had its share of drama which mostly stemmed from one incident that occurred just off the pitch. Just as Jimenez was about to leave the pitch, he caught some kind of insult from the crowd that was directed at him. His response was to flash an obscene hand gesture back towards those hurling the insults, something which of course did not go unnoticed. This result of all this, aside from providing plenty for the radio stations and newspapers to talk about, was a 15 day ban for Jimenez to be served away from the bench. Not exactly what we would hope for when we’re desperately looking for all the points we can get…

Our draw in the Athens derby was followed by a Europa League match at home against Rijeka. The result? A second draw, this time by a score of 2-2. This match, like the match against PAO, couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start. We conceded early on from, you guessed it, another set piece. Two posts later and the score was 0-2 in favour of Rijeka just 25 minutes in. Our chance of clinching qualification to the knockout stages was quickly fading away unless we were able to muster a comeback like the one we managed against Olympiakos.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t mean to be as we ended up falling just short. By the end of the match we managed to even the score at 2-2 and also ended up having the better share of chances. We might not have managed to qualify for the next rounds just yet, but we still find ourselves in a decent position. A draw in the final match against Austria Wien will be enough to see us through, something which is very much possible assuming we manage to defend set plays better…

Our final match until now was one which had a happier ending than the previous two. After two draws in a row, we managed a win when we beat Platanias 3-0 in Athens. The match was preceded with the news that all proceeds from the ticket sales would be donated to the causes helping the flood victims in Greece these past two weeks recover, an initiative that was applauded by Platanias as well.

This game, despite being played without Jimenez on the bench and with both Mantalos and Simoes out injured, was always expected to result in a win for AEK. As expected, the team delivered. The stats are pretty impressive with AEK ending the match with 25 chances (11 of which were on goal) and 63% of the possession. Livaja opened the scoring and added a second goal in the second half with Bakasetas finishing up the scoring at the 63rd minute. While it took a while for us to get some chances, the result ended up being what was pretty much expected. What was more important than the result itself however is the fact that the win now puts us alone in 1st place after PAOK and Atromitos both drew over the weekend. We now sit 1st with 24 points followed by Olympiakos in 2nd with 23. Its tight, but its a slight edge which might go a long way when the season ends.

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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.

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:

Xanthi 1-1 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2017 by alexaek

After our first loss of the season to Tripolis a couple weeks ago, its safe to say we were all hoping for a bounce back win to get our title push back on track. Well, all we got instead was a rather disappointing 1-1 draw. The point helps keep us within reach of PAOK as we only sit one point behind them in 2nd, but a win would have been just enough to keep us in 1st.

It was a frustrating game to watch to say the least, as the stats clearly suggest. Possession was 65% in our favour and we more than dominated in terms of creating chances: 4 for Xanthi and 18 for AEK (with 6 chances on target). Zivkovic was great in nets for Xanthi and it was just one of those days where the ball just didn’t want to go in the back of the net. It doesn’t help that Araujo clearly still hasn’t found some good form. I’m not sure if its the pressure of the expectations of last season, or if theres something else but I was expecting him to find some form by now. If he doesn’t find it soon we could be in trouble since hes naturally a big part of this team.

At the end of the day I can’t say I’m too surprised with the result. Xanthi is one of those towns along with Tripolis where we often seem to struggle. You just have to look back at our past games in Xanthi dating back to 2012 season and the results dont paint a very promising picture: One win, one loss, and four draws. All in all its not the end of the world for us just yet as we still have a three point buffer between us and Olympiakos, but we wont be this lucky for much longer. Olympiakos got their first win this weekend since the 26th of August but if past seasons are anything to go by, its only a matter of time until Olympiakos get back to winning form one way or another. We’ll also have to be weary of PAO who have managed to put together 2 consecutive wins for the first time this season and while they might not seem like a threat at the moment, they can’t be discounted quite yet.

 

As dissappointing as that result was, hopefully the team can put it behind them and focus on the upcoming match against AC Milan at the San Siro. We’ve never beat Milan away from home, and I’m sure they’ll be coming out to strong to make a good impression after their derby loss to Inter over the weekend. I know we have a good team, but I’m not expecting the three points here. Having said that, Rijeka managed to give them a hard time in Milan a few weeks ago, so perhaps they have some weakness we can take advantage of.

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.

 

AEK 3-1 Panathinaikos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Playoffs with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2016 by alexaek

Huge win for the team today, a win that puts us back in with a shot of getting first in the playoffs. A loss today would have essentially ended all hope for us, but the win now means that if we win both of our upcoming matches, we finish top. I’m feeling pretty confident at this point and if it wasn’t for the fatigue really getting to the players, I would be certain that we could win both games. We play PAOK at home first and as we all know, our home form for the derbies has been pretty solid. The final game of the season is away against Panionios, a game which is never easy but I fancy our chances now given the fact that Panionios has been so poor during these playoffs.

So how did we win today? To be honest, a little bit of luck helped. PAO had two goals called back (though both were the right calls from what I’ve read… still looking for replays though) and they also got a straight red which was supposedly a bit controversial though I have yet to see the replay for that either. Aside from that though, we did everything we needed to get away with the win: taking advantage of set plays and counter attacks. For much of the game PAO controlled possesion but it sounded like they had a harder time breaking through today compared to when we played them on Monday. We were lucky that Leto didn’t get the start since his presence was noticed afterwards when he scored the only goal for PAO.

The two key players for us today in my opinion have got to be Mantalos and Barbosa. Mantalos directly set up our first and third goal while he was also the one to start the counter attack on our second goal. As for Barbosa, well its pretty obvious why I consider his impact on the game today to be so important. Two of today’s three goals were scored by him and both were finished so perfectly that they left Steele with no chance of making the save.

I haven’t really found any decent quality highlights on youtube but you can check out the goals at the following link: http://www.novasports.gr/match-center/match-center-agonas/match/1021/aek-panathinaikos/#.V0ewlTdrhD8 You’ll just need to go down to the live goals section down the page, and watch each goal individually. The third by Barbosa is especially worth taking a look at.

So where does today’s result leave us? Well PAOK are still first in the playoffs with 10 points, followed by AEK with 8 points and Panathinaikos with 7 (Panionios have only managed to pick up one point until now). Really, its still very open at the top with two games left to play so anything could happen.

AEK 1-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Players, Dellas, Derby, football, Greek Football, Keepers, PAOK, Superleague with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2016 by alexaek

After three attempts this season we’ve finally managed to win a derby, and an important one too. It was a scrappy game, one where we certainly could have done a lot of things better, but the three points against PAOK could not have come at a better time.

The win puts us at 39 points, 4 points ahead of PAO and 6 ahead of PAOK. Considering both those teams have been shaky at best lately and we seem to have found some good form since the start of the year, we have now put ourselves in a great position to make sure we get the best start we can to the playoffs… assuming we can continue to get the results like we have been lately.

The game was our sixth win in a row for 2016 (including cup games) and while it has given us a lot to celebrate, including yet another game without conceeding and the first time this season that we managed to get a win against a team in the top five, it also showed we still have a lot to worry about. Normally I have a hard time narrowing down where exactly I should start when bringing up the negatives, but for yesterday’s game, the biggest concern was clear: Arzo.

I remember I wasn’t the only one who wondered why Dellas never really gave him much of a chance, but people were always suggesting that Dellas of all people would know whether a center back was good enough to play or not. While I admit Dellas may have not been perfect, it seems he was certainly right about Arzo: I wanted him to be given a chance, but yesterday’s game proved he just isn’t good enough. One website even sarcastically, though fairly accurately, said that he was PAOK’s best player. It seems as though he just can’t think fast enough when the pressure is on him, leading him to either take too long to make a decision or, when he does decide to act quick enough, leading to sloppy plays which more often than not result in lose balls which PAOK attackers were able to latch onto all too quickly. With some teams, his poor decision making is less apparent as the players are simply not good enough to latch onto the errors he makes. Against PAOK however, that simply wasn’t the case. Rodriguez, easily PAOK’s most dangerous player offensively, was quick and aggressive in attack and was able to pressure Arzo throughout the game forcing mistakes or sloppy clearances. Bottom line is as a center back, someone playing in a role where you need to be solid and sure of what you’re doing as the last line of defense, he simply was not anywhere near good enough yesterday. It does not help that all other center back options we have are relatively young and unexperienced.

We were also pretty sloppy in attack unfortunately, and it made for a rather dull game with few solid chances. Sure we managed to move the ball forward often enough, and we certainly showed enough attacking intent, but in the final third we couldn’t get anything to work. Chance after chance near or in the box was ruined due to a poor pass or a poor finish, something which I can’t help but feel must be related to a psychological issue that seems to be affecting the team as a whole. I’m hoping yesterday’s win will help with our derby performances in the upcoming games, but it still seems as though whenever we have a big game, our concentration and nerve take a big hit.

Simoes got the man of the match award, and he certainly deserved it. Time after time he came back and provided the much needed cover for our defenders, making some critical tackles and constantly covering our half of the pitch. Without him, I’m not convinced we would have come out of the game without conceding from PAOK’s attacking surge towards the last twenty minutes of the game. Anestis was also phenomenal and has proven yet again to Poyet and the fans that he deserves to be considered for the starting lineup, even when Baroja returns from injury. He was solid during one on one situations, handled the far shots well and, most importantly, was able to keep calm during corners and free kicks.

Overall not the best game but I’m certainly relieved we got the points. I’m really hoping this win will give us the confidence we need to face the next two derbies (Olympiakos three weeks from now and PAO at the end of February) since I genuinely see no reason we can’t win against PAO and at least get a draw against Olympiakos.

Highlights as usual for our league games can be found on the Novasports page for AEK.