Archive for playoffs

PAO 1-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby with tags , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2017 by alexaek

After beating our Athenian rivals with a score of 1-0 over the weekend, they returned the favour with a 1-0 win of their own courtesy of a Leto penalty. I was following along to the commentary and while we had a few chances of our own, it seemed like a very lackluster performance overall from AEK.

Chygrinskiy and Vranjes (who ultimately left the game after receiving two yellow cards) were solid for us at the back and Galanopoulos had a good game in the midfield but aside from those three, there seemed to be little ambition or creativity from any of our players. I have to say though that I’m not entirely surprised. We played alright in the game against PAOK and we managed to get a win last game but overall these playoffs feel forced from all the teams involved, rather than being something they want to be involved with. Just looking at the scores of the eight games played so far suggests that too, with not a single game seeing more than one goal scored per team.

Today’s result luckily doesn’t leave us in an awful position just yet. It isn’t perfect, but we’re still second with a two point gap to PAOK. Having said that, we still play PAOK at home and have made it past the two away derbies so on paper we should be able to get the six points from the next two games which would clinch first place for us in the playoffs. It won’t be easy though seeing as we lost to Panionios at home already and we only barely got the win over PAOK in Thessaloniki. But, its definitely realistic to expect us to win our last two games if the team plays the football we saw them play earlier in 2017. Ultimately it depends on which team decides to show up: if its the AEK squad from today or from the Cup final, then we’ll be lucky to come away with three points from the next two games. If, however, we see the AEK that we saw just after Jimenez took over, the AEK team that was scoring goals on a constant basis and barely conceding, then we can fully expect to find ourselves in a Champions League qualifying spot by the end of May.

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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.

 

Panionios 1-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Greek Soccer, Manager, Playoffs, Pre-season, Signing, Singings with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2016 by alexaek

A disappointing end to what has been a very disappointing bunch of playoff games for AEK. I knew going into it all that we’d be pretty tired and worn out, but I was hoping for better than 4th place but what can you do? Honestly I can’t complain, I’d rather see us win the Cup and finish 4th rather than finish 2nd but not win the Cup.

I didn’t get to watch the match but it didn’t sound like I missed all that much anyways. We did have a few chances, notably yet another post by Aravidis, but the commentary I was following gave me the impression that it was Panionios who were having more success going forward.

Despite the unfortunate result, it was nice to see Zuculini in the starting XI. I know he had mentioned a few times that he wanted to play for the team again and it was great to see him get a chance. Not sure if theres any chance he’ll be with us next season but I think its worth considering our options if we can keep him. We didn’t get to see all that much from him so I would like to see what he could after a whole pre-season with the team.

Aside from Zuculini, we also brought some other players with us who have yet to feature all that much for us this season including Vouras, Svarnas, Vasilantonopoulos, Vlahomitros, Galanopoulos, and Kyriazis. To be honest I don’t remember seeing all that much at all of any of these players aside from Svarnas and Vasilantonopoulos, but it was nice to see them included. Only Galanopoulos, Vasilantonopoulos and Vlahomitros ended up playing as subs and I’m not really sure how well they played or what contributions they made to the team.

 

Today’s match was the last time we’d see Nikos Pantazis on the bench with the team. Niko, who has been part of AEK’s physiotherapy team since 1972, has been arguably the most loyal member of the team through all these years. He grew up as an AEK fan and never once left the team. When I was back in Greece he was one of those people I always just associated with AEK. Players left, coaches left as often as management did, but Niko was always there. I just wanted to take a moment to thank him for his dedication to the club, even through all that the team has been through. It will be weird seeing shots of the team bench on TV without him on it.

Nikos celebrating the club (photo courtesy of http://www.gazzetta.gr)

 

Shortly after our game today, various news outlets started posting articles in which they said we were very close to singing a new manager. The manager they all mention is Philippe Montanier, most recently the manager of Rennes. He has also managed Real Sociedad and was assistant manager to the Ivory Coast. He’s not too old, but not too young that he lacks experience, and he seems like a fairly serious manager. I don’t all that much about him and while there were other managers out there I would have liked to see with the team, I’d be pretty satisfied if we ended up singing Montanier. Regardless of who do end up singing, I would just like to see it finalized as soon as possible so we can start building our squad right away.

AEK 0-0 PAOK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Champions League, Derby, Draw, Europa League, football, Greek Football, Greek Soccer with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2016 by alexaek

Very unfortunate result for us, and one that we perhaps didn’t deserve since we were the only team who showed up today looking for a win. But thats football sometimes. I expected a win, if only for the fact that we’ve won all our derbies at OAKA until now this season, but fatigue once again got the better of us.

We tried, we really did. Especially towards the end we were really piling on the pressure but there was little our players could do. A better rested squad would have easily found a way to get a result but though our intentions were there today, the team just couldn’t physically put in the effort required.

Officiating was back to its usual Greek standards with a clear penalty on Simoes not called midway through the first half. Had the call been given and the penalty converted, it would have been a different game altogether since PAOK were only able to get forward on counter attacks and struggled to take control of the game otherwise.

We’ve always known PAOK was a dirty team on the pitch, especially since the days of Garcia, but today was some of the worst playing from PAOK that I’ve seen in a while. Dirty tackle after dirty tackle, simply with the aim of breaking any rhythm we could get going. It all caught up to them after Tzavellas took down Aravidis on a clear breakaway and got sent off, but our advantage was short lived after Pekhart recieved his second yellow early in the second period. Even when we were playing with a man up though, we couldn’t create all that much.

We had our chances to go ahead, two of them from Aravidis (one of his chances  managed to hit the cross bar), and a few other half chances but for the most part there was little reward for all the effort the team put in. Our supporters appreciated the performance nonetheless, applauding the players at the end of the match, but it was too bad we couldn’t get the three points and give us one last chance to qualify for Champions League play next season. Unfortunately though, as it stands the best we could hope for is making it to the Europea League, and even that would only be after qualifying for the group stages.

As far as Europa League is concerned, the draw for the qualifying rounds take place on the 15th of July and it is then when we will learn who we’ll face. We’ll be placed in the 3rd qualifying round and from then, if I understand correctly, we’ll play in the playoff round for the group stages. It won’t be easy as some of our possible opponents include teams such as Alkmaar, Lille, St.Ettienne, West Ham, Herta, Sassuolo, and Dinamo Minsk, among others. Having said that, I’m pretty confident that with some quality singings this summer, we can make it to the group stages. With our current squad though, as well as they’ve done this season, I really can’t see having too easy a time making it through to the playoff round.

 

It wasn’t all bad news this weekend as our basketball club finally managed to end the series with Aris winning the 4th game 89-81 and in doing so managed to clinch 3rd place. It was a shame we couldn’t beat Aris during the regular season since we’re clearly level with them but the team did well to get it done in the playoffs. They might not yet be at the level of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos, but we’re clearly on the right track. I still don’t think we’ll be able to win the championship any time soon, but it would definitely be nice if we could get a win or two against Olympiakos or PAO next season to give us at least a bit of hope that we may one day see a team like the ones we saw in the past.

If you have some time on your hands, you can catch the whole match below. It was a pretty good game and Herston’s performance in particular was outstanding. I’d say it was easily the best we’ve seen from him all season. Sakota also had a good game and I think he’s done a good job of proving that he should be in the squad next season.

 

PS: For some extra commentary on today’s match, check out this link.

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.

Aris 74-69 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Derby with tags , , , , on May 25, 2016 by alexaek

So close to finishing the season off and cementing ourselves in 3rd place, but we instead let Aris get the better of us despite playing in an empty arena. We had a number of key players out due to injury and suspension, so we did well all things considered but we simply weren’t able to hold Aris off towards the end.

Its too bad really since it would have been nice to end the series with three straight wins, but I still feel like we have the advantage. Aris need to win the next two games which is something they certainly can do, but I feel like for the first time all season, we’ve finally proven that we can be equal to, if not better than, Aris. I believe the next game is back in Athens, so that’s something which can definitely give a boost to us but I really I think the best we can do is make sure we stay calm and play the way we all know the team is capable of. On a good day, we’re solid defensively and make the key baskets we need to. We’ll obviously need to keep an eye on former AEK player Vasilis Symtsak, he had a great game today with 22 points and 10 rebounds and was key to so many of Aris’ attacks. We give him an inch of space and the results could be devastating for us.

A big day for our football team today (April 26th) as we face PAO in OAKA. We win this and we’re back in it with a good chance of getting first in the playoffs. We lose and its pretty much over for us. The team wouldn’t have had much of a chance to recover from Monday’s game, but Zuculini is available again for us so he could be a useful option off the bench if hes ready. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Pekhart in the starting XI, giving Djebbour a chance to come off the bench. I’m not his biggest fan by any means, but he’s been pretty pivotal to some of our successes lately so I feel like he could be a great impact sub if we need him. Otherwise, we all know how useless he can be when fatigue gets the better of him.