I’ve been staring at this page for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out what to write, but its always difficult explaining in words what I (and most AEK fans around the world today) feel after a win like this. Its hard to know where to start, what to talk about first, when so much happened during the match. On one hand I feel like talking about our performance would be the natural place to start, but its hard to talk about this match without first mentioning some of the rather unbelievable things that happened.
I really could not believe my eyes when I saw what I was seeing today. Who can remember the last time Olympiakos received a straight red, only to receive another red later in the game in addition to having a penalty called against them? And in a derby of all games? Of course we have to keep in mind that Olympiakos has practically won the championship already and things would have certainly been different had that not been the case. We should also keep in mind though that until now Olympiakos had been pretty close to setting some records for penalties awarded and red cars given (to their opposition of course). The fact that that was all turned on its head and in a derby of all games is pretty noteworthy.
Aside from wondering what led to this change, the main questions that will be asked were whether the cards and penalty were the right calls. Judging by the reactions of the Olympiakos players and staff, they were some of the most atrocious calls ever awarded. I guess they just aren’t used to the feeling of having so many calls go against you? It makes sense considering for a team who is so used to having things go their way, they must have been in a rather uncomfortable position when all of a sudden they weren’t able to get away with everything and continue on playing as though nothing ever happened.
In my honest opinion, each of the calls involving red card and the penalties were more than fair calls by the referee. The only play I am uncertain about at the moment was the first red for the tackle on Aravidis since I haven’t seen a clear angle yet that clearly shows what happened. However, I really can’t imagine Aravidis would go down like that when he was the last man and left one on one with the keeper. Do people really expect Aravidis to go for the dive when he has the chance to score against Olympiakos in front of over 40,000 supporters and be the hero of the day? I certainly don’t.
As for the other calls, the hand ball that led to the second red card for Olympiakos and the penalty, I really don’t know how anyone can complain about it. Not only does Milivojevic clearly make contact with his arm, but he even lifts his arm up in the direction the ball was headed. The ref was right in front of him and in perfect sight of everything that happened, and well done to him for making the call. That’s not to say that the referee was perfect all game, but I know I personally would not want to be the one to make that call against olympiakos. It wouldn’t be the first time that a ref experienced some sort of violence after making a call against Olympiakos.
That’s enough from me now for the refereeing. Not only were the calls fair, but I really have no pity for Olympiakos to finally experience what every other team in the league has experienced every week for the past decade or more when playing against that team. I think its only fair that I talk about our players too since they are, afterall, the ones who deserve credit for giving me the first chance to talk about a win against in Olympiakos in years.
So how did we play? To be honest I had issues finding a good stream for the entire game but I managed to see enough to know that we did what we had to for the win. No, it was not a great performance and yes, I would like to see better. At no point however did we look like the weaker team. At no point did we look like the team that came from the second division while Olympiakos looked like the champions of Greece. At no point did we look like a team with maybe a quarter of the budget of Olympiakos, if not less. Our players came out to play and showed no fear against a team that has not lost in 22 league games.
Some players of course stood out over others. I felt that Mantalos did well to get involved in our attack whenever he could as well as making some good passes. I was also really grateful to see Simoes and Barbosa back in the starting XI as they’re presence really brings the team to a new level. Surprisingly I even felt like Arzo actually didn’t have a terrible game for once. That’s not to say he was phenomenal, but at least I didn’t see him make any critical errors (it is possible that I missed some plays though while my streams were down/unavailable).
On the other hand, Baroja felt a bit shaky, especially earlier in the game. There were a few times on set plays when he came out to clear the ball and missed entirely and he did not seem to be making his presence really felt in the box. Thankfully though he tightened up later in the game and ended up making some pretty good saves. I wonder though how Anestis would have done in the game. Its always nice to see Greeks playing in these games since they grew up understanding what they mean.
I know today’s result only means so much considering we have almost no chance of winning the league, but its still a noteworthy victory regardless. First of all, it shows we’re clearly at least headed in the right direction with Poyet with two derby wins in the second half of the season (and I see no reason why we can’t also win against PAO). Second, it gives me more confidence going into a possible cup semi-final, or even final, against them. We weren’t clearly the better side today, but at no point did we look like underdogs. Aside from maybe the first 15 minutes, at no point were Olympiakos the dominant team. If anything we seemed to be the more composed and focused team, even if we couldn’t create as many chances as we would have liked. With just a bit more composure and focus and possible some more confidence from today’s win, I really feel we can go into a Cup game against Olympiakos and come away with the win.
Highlights, as usual, can be found on the novasports page: http://aek365.novasports.gr/
A longer look at the goal:
Almost forgot. As if this day wasn’t already perfect, our basketball team also won today, 55-65 away against Kavala. A big win as every win is for us as it keeps us in third place, two points behind Olympiakos and PAO (though they both have a game less to play).