Archive for PAOK

AEK 3-1 Kerkyra

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Europa League with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 11, 2017 by alexaek

After another weekend of wins for Oly, PAOK, and Atromitos, the pressure was on AEK again today to get a win. Sure enough, they delivered yet again and for another week remain on top. Its still a fragile lead, with only one point separating us and Oly, but as long as we keep getting results I can’t complain.

Today’s match went as expected against second to last placed Kerkyra, although Kerkyra definitely didn’t get off to the start they had hoped for after their keeper scored an own goal to open the scoring for AEK. It all happened in the 11th minute when Lazaros had two chances to finish from point blank range but it was instead the keeper who ended up getting the ball into the back of the net.

Kone continued the scoring, scoring his first goal with AEK in over ten years. And what a goal it was; a poor clearance by Kerkyra landed right at Kone’s chest who with some great control and a beautiful finish lobbed the ball right out of the keeper’s reach and into the net.

Araujo finished off the scoring for AEK after yet another poor clearance by Kerkyra’s defense ultimately landed at the Argentinian’s feet. Araujo, showing sings of what we came to expect of him last year, finished it beautifully with a one timer that left the keeper with no chance.

Kerkyra managed to pull one back but it was too little too late for them. The penalty that lead to their goal was questionable at best, but it was the only downside of what was another convincing performance by AEK.

Whats most impressive for me about our recent performances is that we’re consistently getting results without Mantalos and Johansson. Players like Klonaridis and Kone who earlier in the season weren’t showing as much promise as we expected are now proving to have rather considerable roles in the team. Even Araujo, who had a slow start to his season this year, is starting to find himself on the scoresheet more and more often. Its a good time for the team to find some form since it will only get tougher from this point on as the pressure increases. The only thing I’m weary about at this point is that with the Christmas break fast approaching, its a very real possibility that the break might affect our momentum. Of course, it might not affect us at all, but its always a risk when you’re away from the game for a while.

 

Today’s result wasn’t the only news for our football team today. Earlier in the day, the draws took place for who we would face in the Europa League Round of 32 and to be honest, I feel like it could definitely be worse. The luck of the draw paired us with Dynamo Kiev, Ukranian runners up last season. I’m not saying it will be an easy two matches by any stretch, but we definitely have more of a chance at getting a favourable result against them than say Atletico Madrid or Arsenal for example (even if both of those teams aren’t in great form in their respective leagues).

 

One last piece of AEK news worth mentioning comes from our basketball game yesterday. We played Olympiakos and considering our recent league form, I don’t think anybody was realistically expecting much of a result. Instead, what happened was something that hasn’t happened in 13 years: we won! 13 years since the last time we beat Olympiakos in Basketball, we beat them again with a score of 66-62. It was a tight game, and towards the end the lead was fluctuating between the two sides quite a bit.

Its been an interesting season for our basketball club. We’re in mediocre form (and thats being generous) in the league and we’re even worse off in European play, yet we’ve beat PAO and Oly within the span of about a month. Strange times indeed, but hopefully our recent switch of coaches will help after we hired Dragan Sakota as our coach for the third time in his career.

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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.

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.

AEK 0-0 Milan

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Europa League, football with tags , , , , , on November 2, 2017 by alexaek

Another game against Milan, and another scoreless draw. Would a win have been nice? Oh definitely, especially after watching the highlights and realizing we had more than our fair share of chances to score. Still though, there are some key points to take away from these past two games:

  1. We’re still undefeated, four games into the group stages. Thats a pretty impressive stat bearing in mind this is our first time in the group stages of a European tournament in years.
  2. We managed to prevent Milan from scoring in two straight games, including in their home stadium. Now I know Milan aren’t in the best shape form wise but still, considering their team costs in the range of 200-250 Million Euros (I believe that is more than all Superleague teams combined), its something to be proud of. If anything these past two games show that we have a coach who understands tactics and a team that knows how to implement it.
  3. Today’s game was a key one considering we were missing Mantalos. The game was a key test to show how we would handle the situation without him on the pitch and it seems like we managed to adapt fairly well. I’m sure we would have benefited from his presence, but we still managed to control the tempo for much of the game while creating some great scoring opportunities.

Two games still remain in the group stages but we’re in a decent position. Honestly I’d say that first place in the group is still up for grabs as well, if only slightly. This Milan team has looked shaky at best and with their current form, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Austria Wien or Rijeka manage to hold them to a draw in the last two games. If that were to happen and we were to win our final two games (unlikely but definitely possible), we would finish the Group Stage in first. Not bad at all for our first time back after an extended absence. Having said that, second place is definitely ours to take at this point. I’m sure we have at least another win and a draw from the final two games in store for us which would, I believe, seal at least second place.

As for today’s game itself, I was able to follow the commentary for much of it and from what I read it sounded like we played well. It seemed as though we had a plan, were able to stick with it and, most importantly, we weren’t able to attack. In fact it sounded like we were the stronger team throughout much of the match and after watching the highlights, I think that was confirmed. I was looking at some stats as well and I think throughout the first half, Milan had the ball in our box only twice and didn’t manage a shot until well into the match.

Equally impressive were our supporters. Its a shame we weren’t able to sell out like we did the last time Milan came to town, but reports say there were around 50,000 in attendance which is a pretty decent number. It definitely puts the low attendance figures for Milan in their home match against us to shame. Unfortunately there was an incident where some Milan fans were ambushed supposedly by AEK supporters. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I read that around 9 Milan supporters and 3 AEK supporters were injured but I don’t believe any of the injuries were particularly serious.

A win would have been nice, especially considering our chances, but I’ll take the draw. More importantly for us now is our match against PAOK this weekend. Its a huge match since a win will land us in 2nd place, two points over PAOK. In fact depending on how Atromitos fare with Panionios, we could even find ourselves in 1st by the end of the weekend.

 

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.

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: