Archive for Simoes

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.

Advertisements

AEK 3-0 Brugge

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

Back in the Group Stages After Six Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Larissa 1-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2016 by alexaek

We’re Still In It

Three points that couldn’t have come at a better time. With today’s win we manage to keep ourselves within two points of 1st, so its safe to say that another loss would have really put a dent in any progress we may have made before the Karaiskaki game.

Its an important win for other reasons too. We have to remember after-all that Olympiakos lost in this same stadium a few weeks ago and that an away game against Larissa is almost never an easy task. Today proved exactly that as, even though we got off to a great start scoring first in the 4th minute, it was still never a particularly comfortable outing for the team.

I unfortunately didn’t manage to watch the game since I was at work, but it sounds like although we managed to do well offensively, we struggled to exert any control over the middle of the pitch. I can’t say I’m entirely surprised since not having Simoes helping us out leaves a huge gap that most players just can’t fill. There is only so much Johansson can do on his own and why management didn’t think to look for another player in the off-season who could help hold up the ball a bit in the midfield is beyond me. Sure with Simoes fit we have a much better chance of doing something but with him gone the task becomes that much harder. And what happens when Johansson gets injured too? I can’t imagine how weak we’d be in the middle of the pitch if we ever lose both Simoes and Johansson for a game.

The scorer for both of our goals was, surprisingly, Platellas. I don’t mean to say “surprisingly”in a negative way because there is no doubt that he is a talented player. Its just that he somewhat lets me down when we really need him to perform but today he did everything we could have asked for. Aside from Platellas, it seems like the rest of the team was good enough to downright disappointing. Its unfortunate since I would have hoped that the two week break would have allowed us to gel a little more but on the other hand its promising that we still managed to hold on to the three points.

What is less promising though is the fact that not only did Galo get a red for a second offense during the game, but Lazaros also received a red after time was called for an altercation involving either the ref or another player (I still haven’t read for sure what happened. This means that we’ll be missing three important players for the next match after Patito was also banned for three games following an incident he was involved with at Karaiskaki.

Highlights as usual can be found on Novasport’s site: http://aek365.novasports.gr

 

Basketball Team Also Has a Good Weekend

It was not only our football club that managed to get a good result as our basketball club also got a convincing 96-56 win against Lavrio. The game started with a celebration retiring the jersey of AEK basketball great Georgios Trontzos and the performance of the team was a great way of honouring one of the greatest players to wear our shirt. Trontzos won five championships with AEK and was a key part of the team that won the Cup Winner’s Cup in 1968 and as such the retiring of his number 6 jersey was well deserved.

The game, for anyone interested, is available in its entirety on youtube.

 

Atromitos 1-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Atromitos, Dellas, Greek Soccer, Greek Super League, Injuries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2016 by alexaek

Just like that, our winning streak comes to an end. It was an unfortunate way for us to lose but I’m hoping that the loss at least serves as a wake up call for the team, a wakeup call which we desperately need following our performance today.

So how did we play? Terribly. Did we deserve to lose? Absolutely. Its hard to find one person to blame the performance on since it seemed like there were very few players who came out today to win. Djebbour did absolutely nothing today, Mantalos seemed to have no imagination, Vargas was quieter and sloppier than Djebbour, and our defense had no idea how to handle any counter attack that was thrown at them.

The game started off slowly, but I was sure that it was just our players getting a feel for how Atromitos would be playing. I was sure that by about the 20th minute we’d start to see some life from our players but the whole first half ended up passing by without one solid chance being created.

Part of me wants to blame Atromitos for playing so defensively that we just couldn’t find a way through but I know that the blame falls on us entirely. Throughout the first half we had possession, we were able to keep Atromitos at bay, but could not find any way of getting a dangerous ball into their box. Even corners for us consistently lead to nothing at all with the corners we were taking more often than not landing right in the keeper’s gloves.

Games like this really make me wonder why Poyet refuses to give Buonanotte more of a chance. Could it be that he thinks he lacks the physicality to be able to hold his ground? Does he something at practice that we aren’t able to experience ourselves? Its possible, but could playing Buonanotte really be any worse than playing Djebbour and Vargas? On games like today’s, with Atromitos parking so many men in front of the net, we need players who can dribble a ball in to the box rather than relying on long balls which will always be defended with ease from one of Atromitos’ eight defenders. Playing Buonanotte from at least half time would have really given us far more options, options which we just did not have otherwise. Even the addition of Platellas in the second half added a bit of life to the team but it still wasn’t enough.

Aside from the awful performance by players such as Djebbour, Vargas, and Arzo, what hurt us most today was the absence of Simoes and Barbosa. Without Simoes today, Johansson was forced to do most of the hard work himself with Zuculini also providing support either beside or behind him. On top of that, the shaky performance from our defenders meant that Johansson and Zuculini had to stay back often to provide defensive support while not being able to contribute to creating any solid attacking plays. Unlike previous games where Johansson and Simoes were able to hold on to the ball and bring it into the half where they could distribute to one of our attacking players, we instead had to rely on Mantalos and Aravidis coming back to set up plays to Djebbour and Vargas (a set up which really did not work well).

Overall we seemed tired, unimaginative, and perhaps even a bit complacent. Of course we were on a good roll, but at no point can we take any match for granted. I hate to say it, but we are nowhere near the level where we can be considered clear favourites against any team in the league. Hopefully the players were reminded of that today because if they play the way they did today against Olympiakos next week, we’ll be in for quite the embarrassment.

Highlights:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w62qG02W9s

By the way, the standings from AEK below are: AEK with 42, Panathinaikos with 38, and PAOK with 34. Both PAO and PAOK lost over the weekend meaning today’s game would have been a huge chance to go 7 points clear of PAO and 11 clear of PAOK… Unfortunate that we couldn’t take advantage of that. To make things worse, there was some trouble after the match involving our supporter’s after the match which means we possibly face bans for our fans, and even point deductions. Its unclear whether we’ll have fans in the stands for the game against Olympiakos next week, but it seems quite likely that we’ll be facing PAO in an empty OAKA…

 

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.

 

PAS Giannina 0-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Dellas, Derby, Greek Football, Greek Super League, Keepers, PAOK, Superleague with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2016 by alexaek

Our fantastic start to 2016 got even better after we got an important three points away against in cold and wet Northern Greece. Conditions for the match were less than ideal as the rain that had fallen the previous couple of days meant the pitch was in terrible shape, but our players handled the situation very well. In fact, with how well they were moving the ball around at times I often forgot that there was even anything wrong with the pitch.

It was a good game from most of the team though there were certainly a few players who never really managed to get into the game. From what I could see, Djebbour especially stood out. From the moment he came on in the second half, I rarely saw him make any effort. I hardly even saw him run as he spent most of his time taking jogging slowly and idly around the pitch, almost as if he wasn’t even really aware of what was going on around him. He  can play, we all know it, but the effort he gives, especially beside someone who never stops like Aravidis, is disappointing. I know he’s always been like this, but it seems to be getting worse, to the point where its really not worth playing him. I’d much rather we call up someone from our academy or make a cheap singing of another striker from the Superleague rather than play Djebbour when he’s being a spectator the way he is.

Another player who disappointed me yet again was Vargas. Sure he scored the goal, but I hardly see him contribute aside from scoring. When he has players like Simoes and Johansson around him, players who are constantly getting involved, he really has to carry his weight some more. Otherwise, it just ends up holding Simoes and Johansson back and ends up giving them one less option, options we desperately need when we play against a team that defends like PAS.

Defensively I thought we were mediocre today, not terrible but we certainly still allowed PAS far too much time near our goal. PAS do have a good team for sure, but we need to be able to hold back teams a lot better than we do. We need to be able to apply more pressure but without leaving ourselves too vulnerable, something we can’t quite do yet with the centre backs we have. It too often seems to be one or the other; either we apply some pressure and end up leaving ourselves vulnerable and open at the back, or we hold back but then end up giving our opposition too much time on the ball and too much time to form an attack. Hopefully we sign a more experienced centre back soon to help us a bit, its been far too long since we had players like Dellas or Kyrgiakos back there.

Players who stood for me were Johansson (is anybody surprised?), Simoes, and Barbosa, all players who seem to have settled very well into the positions Poyet is playing them in. However, most of my credit and praise has to go to Anestis. For the second game in a row he saved a penalty, a penalty which could have tied the game for PAS. He also managed to keep a clean sheet again (in fact, in the five games we’ve played in 2016, hes only conceeded once) and just generally had a solid game. I saw one corner where he seemed a bit shaky but otherwise, he did everything he had to which is all we can ask of him at this point. Without a doubt his confidence is skyrocketting and I can only hope he continues to keep it up. Of course, his real test will be next weekend against PAOK, a game we absolutely must win.

All in all it was a good performance. By no means was it perfect, but we did what we had to, getting the three points away at a difficult team. The three points meant even more after PAO dropped points at home to Panionios, drawing 0-0. That draw now means we are four points ahead with 36 points while PAO have 32. PAOK also have 32 (though they’ve also played a game less), so a win for us in the derby next weekend will mean we keep our distance between us and PAOK as well.

Highlights, as usual, can be found on the NovaSports site here: http://aek365.novasports.gr

 

Unfortunately, our basketball team had a far more disappointing weekend. We played PAOK away, a game I was worried about. We’ve already beaten them this season, and I feel we have a slightly better team, but an away game against PAOK will never be easy.

The game started off well, almost too well. I woke up about a quarter of the way through the game to find that we were not only winning, but we were winning by 20 points. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I quickly got out of bed and set myself up with a stream in time to catch the third and fourth quarter. Unfortunately, it was then that things took a very quick turn for the worse. Just like that, PAOK had managed to close the gap. All of a sudden they were outplaying us, and we could hardly handle them. Too make things worse, our shooting (which was pretty good for the first two quarters) became terrible, with three pointer after three pointer missing the target. It was painful to watch, seeing us miss all these three pointers rather than just trying to go for the safer two pointers. I could quite tell if the team was told to go for three, or they just couldn’t break PAOK’s defense enough to be able to get close enough for any safe two pointers. Either way, it was not nice to watch. Sure enough, with just a couple minutes to go, PAOK managed to claw their way back into the lead for good, winning the game 79-75. We’re still in third place but with Aris’ loss and a win over PAOK, we would have been able to put some good distance between us fourth place. It was a terrible game to watch, but I’m hoping the team can learn something from it.

PAO 0-0 AEK

Posted in AEK, Derby, football, Greek Super League with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2015 by alexaek

A point from the first derby for our new coach is not a bad result at all, even if we could have come away from this game with all three points. Considering he has only had two practice sessions to get familiar with the players, he did a fairly decent job in my opinion, even if I personally would have liked to have seen a couple different changes. We were set up pretty well defensively but it was our midfield set up which allowed us to keep the game from getting out of our control. The pressure we applied throughout prevented PAO from ever getting really comfortable in the middle of the pitch both when attacking and defending, forcing them to attack from the wings quite often (something which they weren’t too good at today). When they did manage to get an attack to end up in the center of the pitch, they were only ever able to get an effort on goal via long shots, shots which very rarely threatened us except for one shot from Berg which hit the cross bar.

Offensively, we were able to get the ball to transition quite quickly, with Johansson, Simoes, Barbosa, and Galo doing well to move the ball around and control the centre and the wings. Unfortunately though, we were clearly lacking in the final third of the pitch, with Chrisantus not providing the attacking options that he should have and Vargas not being dangerous enough aside from a couple chances.

I’ll have a go at some of my own player ratings for today’s game. For once in as long as I can remember, I had a stream which did not skip or cut out once for the entire match so I was able to get a good sense of how we were playing.

Baroja: He was solid, positioning himself perfectly and making the saves he had to. Could not ask for any more from him really, did the job he had to and did it with confidence. Definitely something we were missing last year with Anestis.

Galo: Provided a lot of energy to the match, did well offensively and defensively. He did make some mistakes, but his pace meant he was often able to make up for them. He also came close on a free kick.

Lambropoulos and Kolovetsios: They were both pretty solid in the back, stopping PAO from getting too close to our net whenever they had the chance. They were decent on the set plays and generally managed to handle whatever PAO had to offer. Had this been a stronger PAO team, perhaps things would have different, though that would be impossible to tell. Either way, a solid centre back pair that Poyet should definitely consider sticking with.

Didac: Also did a pretty good job defensively and offensively. He didn’t have as much to work with defensively as PAO had fewer attacks come down our left wing, and he also did not provide the kind of runs that Galo would, but he still ventured forward and offered support whenever needed. He did make a few mistakes though.

Johansson: WIthout him, this may have been a very different game. I know I’ve said this before, but he is without a doubt one of the best singings we’ve made in the past three years. Always such a calm and assuring presence in the middle of the pitch, he is able to win balls well and hold on to them until the right pass can be made. He doesn’t stand out the way a player like Barbosa or Simoes does, but I would say his contribution to our performances is possibly more important than any other player on the pitch.

Simoes: He had a good game, though I’m not sure I would give him the 9 out of 10 that AEK365 gave him. He linked up well with the rest of our midfield and provided options and runs when needed.

Vargas: Had a phenomenal chance early on, but he seemed to be quiet for large periods of the game. In fact, I often saw Chrisantus coming back to link up with our central midfielders often when Vargas was nowhere to be found.

Mantalos: Had some very good runs and was key to any attack we had down the left, but unfortunately his crosses and set play deliveries were very poor today. What makes Mantalos such a critical player is the way he can get balls into dangerous places so well, and when he isn’t doing that as was the case today, the whole team suffers. I know he can do better, and I’m confident he will in our next game, assuming the injury he picked up today does not turn out to be too serious.

Barbosa: Probably the best attacking player for us today, showing a lot of ambition going forward. His effort was unfortunately more often than not wasted as we had no attacking presence in front of the PAO goal, but he was involved whenever he could have been and with a solid striker or two, he can end up being one of our most important players. Unfortunately, he was not linking up well with Chrisantus today.

Chrisantus: I’ve heard a lot of negativity towards Chrisantus, though I still have to say that I disagree. Is he my first choice for striker? Of course not, but with the way we played today, it hardly mattered what strikers we had up front. With so few good balls being played into the box, there was only so much he could do. It got to the point where he was playing deeper and deeper into midfield as the game progressed, looking to help create something up front. His presence in the box on set plays was not the best, but neither were the balls being played in so again I don’t feel like he is to blame. He will definitely need to calm down when he was possession though. Far too often he looks uncomfortable and nervous when he has the ball, and it was definitely a reason he was making so many poor passes. I truly believe that if he learns to calm down a bit when he’s playing, he can be a very effective player upfront.

Overall, neither team looked very dangerous. Overall PAO created the better chances, but there were spells when they were non-existent such as when they lost Lagos to injury early on. We had our chances to, but as with PAO none of the chances we created were very convincing. In fact, if it were not for PAO’s cross bar, I would say that both teams were equally dull offensively. As far as midfield is concerned, we were able to take control with far more confidence than PAO, but I would have to say that PAO overall played a better defensive game than we did, but only slightly.

It was an unfortunate result since a stronger AEK would have taken this game with ease. But the reverse could also be said about PAO. If they had the teams they had in the past, I would have to say that they would have walked all over us. Its unfortunate that both teams are so weak compared to what they used to be because if that were not the case, Olympiakos’ lead at the top of the table would have been far smaller at this point.

In terms of coaching, as I mentioned above I felt that Poyet had us set up quite well. Possibly the only thing I would have done differently (and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way) would have been to put Buonanotte in far earlier. I possibly also would have taken Mantalos out earlier and put Platellas on to replace him. Poyet’s decision to put Cordero one however was a very good one since it was a move that allowed us to keep our control of the midfield at a time when it was starting to slip away from us.

Surprisingly, I felt the ref had a pretty good game. It was a pretty high contact game but he made the right choices for the most part as far as calling fouls, and he stayed away from the cards when he was able to. It was quite refreshing actually to see a derby played where the ref wasn’t a key factor. The same can’t be said for Olympiakos’ game with Veria yesterday, but what else is new…

At the moment, the only highlights I can find are on NovaSport’s site here: http://aek365.novasports.gr