Archive for Vranjes

Where Do I Begin?

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Basketball, Derby, Europa League, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , on February 19, 2018 by alexaek

What a season this has been for us AEK supporters so far. Away from the blog for one week and I have not one, not two, but three incredibly important AEK stories to discuss. Whats more is that it all took place within the span of about four days. Lets start at the beginning though:

Last Thursday we faced Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League Round of 32. The match, the first of two, took place in Athens and as I’m sure most of you know ended in a 1-1 draw. The result is a disappointing one seeing as we’ve conceded the away goal without coming away with a win, but it hardly signals the end of the road for us in Europe. A win in Kiev will guarantee we go through, but so will a 2-2 draw (or any draw really that doesn’t end 0-0 or 1-1).

I honestly have hope that we can get the result we need. We’ve already seen this team perform well with their backs against the wall this season (just look at the comeback wins against Olympiakos this season for example) and on top of that, we outplayed the Ukranians in Athens. The results might not suggest that, but we were genuinely the better team and one look at the match stats confirms that. For example, we created 14 chances (while they had 3), and 6 of our chances were on target (compared to their 1 on target). We also had 64% possession and had double the completed passes. I know this counts for little when the result isn’t favourable, but if anything it gives me hope that we have what it takes to advance.

Having said that, its worth keeping in mind that we will be without Vranjes and Livaja after they both picked up yellow cards, and both those absences will be a huge loss for us. Being without Livaja is something we could live with, but missing Vranjes will leave a gap for sure, so hopefully both Lambropoulos and Chyrgrinskiy are ready come kick off.

Apologies for the poor quality highlights, it was all I could really find on youtube:

 

To help us get over the disappointment in the Europa League from a few days prior, our Basketball club took part in the Greek Cup final on Saturday against Olympiakos. This was our first chance of winning the Cup since 2001 and our first chance of winning any silverware since 2002 so needless to say, there was a lot of expectation. On top of that, its been a rather celebratory year for the team as they’ve been celebrating the team’s 50th Anniversary since winning  the Cup Winner’s Cup and in the process becoming the first Greek team to win a European trophy in a major sport. Needless to say, the stage was set for what was bound to be a tight game and neither team disappointed.

Ultimately, we were able to do more than enough to come out on top after having thoroughly outplayed Olympiakos. It was a close game throughout but it was clear AEK we’re the stronger side for most of the game as I can only remember one point at which Olympiakos had the lead. Having said that, both teams played a great game and it was one of the more enjoyable basketball games I’ve watched this season, made even more enjoyable thanks to our 88-83 win. Its yet another win against Olympiakos across both Football and Basketball as we also beat Olympiakos’ basketball team earlier this season.

As was to be expected, the team’s reception at the Airport in Athens as they returned from Crete was quite the party:

And for those who didn’t get the chance to watch the match, it can be watched in its entirety here:

 

The weekend only got better from that point on as next up was our football match against Xanthi. Now, a league game at home against a respectable but non-threatening opponent would normally not be cause for much celebration but what happened during our 4-0 win was something worth noting. In fact, it was downright historic. Why you might ask? It all comes down to the fact that Vranjes, a centre back, had scored a hat trick by the 33rd minute. Never in the history of 1st division Greek football has a centre back scored a hat trick. Even Vranjes himself has never scored more than 3 goals in an entire season yet here he was, scoring 3 goals in 33 minutes.

Amazing really, and even more amazing when you consider some of the great centre backs we’ve had over the years: Manolas, Dellas, and Papastathopoulos are just a few that come to mind. Almost equally amazing is the fact that its been over ten years since someone scored a hat trick for AEK: the last time that happened was when Liberopoulos scored 3 in a 5-2 win over Aigaleo back in 2007.

The win, as is every win from this point onwards, was huge for us as PAOK won yet again, meaning they’re still 2 points up on us. They have two tough games coming up followed by their match against us so as long as we can keep the pressure on, theres a very good chance we can find ourselves in the lead in a few weeks time.

Advertisements

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.

AEK 0-1 Olympiakos

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2017 by alexaek

The other day, Fourtounis made a comment claiming that on Wednesday (today), Olympiakos would “show which team is the best”. Now I’m kind of confused about this because surely, “the best” team would be the team that made it to the Cup Final? But in this case, Olympiakos didn’t in fact make it to the Final, so how can they be the best? Maybe Fourtounis was stuck in a little day dream where he imagined himself in a black and yellow jersey, celebrating in front of 50,000 supporters as he and his team booked their place in the finals:

All kidding aside, it has to be said that today’s performance wasn’t the greatest. We definitely created some chances but we left a lot to be desired and its really only thanks to Olympiakos’ inability to create anything worthwhile that we got away with the result we were looking for. Its unfortunate really since I was really expecting a win. Maybe not a blowout, but I was anticipating a 1-0 game for us, just something to really seal the deal without causing too much trouble.

But hey, why focus on the negatives you might ask? I don’t really plan on it, we just booked our ticket to the 23rd Cup final in AEK’s history so I really don’t have much to complain about. Having said that, we’ll definitely need to look better in the Final regardless of whether we play Panathinaikos or PAOK. At the end of the day though, its a Cup final and just being a part of it will give our players the energy and drive to give the best that they have to offer.

There were some interesting points to take from the match that deserve some attention, the first of which regards Vranjes. I love the guy and his passion, he clearly relishes the opportunity to play for AEK and even more so when a big game comes around. Having said that, he’ll have to be careful when the final comes around. He was close to getting sent off today and it took the intervention of his own teammates to make sure he didn’t go off the rails.

Its also worth noting the Anestis, who actually had a pretty solid game, got sent off in extra time. To be honest, he was quite clearly wasting time so I feel like the ref wasn’t left with much choice. What was particularly amusing about this situation was the fact that we had no remaining substitutions at that point which resulted in Almeida playing goal for the remaining few minutes. Luckily, he wasn’t really tested.

As is typical with games involving Olympiakos (particularly games in which the result doesn’t go Olympiakos’ way), a number of the higher profile members of the organization had some comments to make about what took place. In classic Savvas fashion, he came out with some very valid points about the officiating today, claiming that it was 80-20 in favour of AEK. I think he has a point, after all how can this reckless tackle on Ansarifard not be called as a penalty for Olympiakos:

Part of me wishes that Savvas never opens his mouth again but then the other part of me will miss his weekly comedy routine. 80-20 in favour of AEK, while giving five minutes of extra time and then another five minutes on top of that, and a red card to AEK’s keeper… I’ve doubted it for a while but now I really can’t believe that Savvas and his crew over at Olympiakos are actually serious.

Enough about them though, how about our supporters and the atmosphere they created in OAKA this evening? The scenes from the game earlier today really make me miss Athens… Definitely my favourite banner this season:

The photos below come from AEK365 and can be seen here as well:

Beautiful scenes as always. And now, the final! At the moment its scheduled for May 6th, but we won’t know until tomorrow whether we will face Panathinaikos or PAOK. To be honest, I don’t see PAOK turning around their two goal deficit to Panathinaikos, but it can definitely happen.

 

Olympiakos 1-2 AEK

Posted in AEK, AEK Athens FC, AEK Players, Derby, Greek Cup with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2017 by alexaek

On AEK’s 93rd birthday, we were treated to an incredibly important win, one which sees us put a foot into the Cup Finals. As Jimenez said today, the future of this team is bright and what we’ve seen up to and including our victory in Karaiskaki, I see no reason at all for us not to go ahead and win the Cup for a second straight season.

Now I don’t want to get too carried away since nothing in football is certain, especially considering despite the fact that we came away with a win, Olympiakos were still very much in the game. In fact both teams had a few good chances to increase the score throughout the match so we definitely cannot discount Olympiakos at this point. Having said that, with two critical away goals and the next game in an OAKA which I feel will be very close to sold out, I’m pretty confident that we’ll be playing in the final in less than a month’s time. Its also worth keeping in mind that our form against Olympiakos has been surprisingly good with AEK winning four of the last five matches between the two sides.

As I said, Olympiakos did have a couple chances so I won’t sugarcoat our performance and say it was flawless since it clearly wasn’t. We were great going forward, but we did allow a little to much space at times in the back. Overall though, what I really noticed with AEK today was that this was the most confident performance I’ve seen from our team in Karaiskaki since our last 2-1 victory there. Previous matches we’ve played in Piraeus seemed shaky, uncomfortable, and as if we just generally didn’t have a plan. In the past, at least for the last three or so seasons, we tended to play in a way that resulted in us sitting back and hoping for a couple counter attacks. Today, however, was a different story. We played with total control for much of the game, a clear game plan, and a team that didn’t seem to be affected at all by nerves. It was definitely a breath of fresh air and one of the clearest signs yet that Jimenez knows what hes doing with the club.

There was the usual shenanigans that follow an Olympiakos loss, with players and management alike criticizing the officiating. Truth be told, I genuinely don’t even know what they were complaining about today as every handball/penalty they called for were, in realities, clean plays. I guess they need to blame someone though? Although if anyone should complain it would be AEK in this case as Seba should have received a straight yellow for his deliberate trip of Araujo (see video below).

Araujo was, as is pretty much expected at this point, our standout player. Considering the technique and vision he possesses, I really don’t see a way we can keep him past the summer. I would love nothing more than to see that happen, but theres no way Las Palmas aren’t noticing the amazing performances hes been consistently been putting in and while I wish we could offer whatever they would ask for him, I just don’t see any way we could possibly afford his price tag.

Mantalos also put in a great performance and I thought the way he and Araujo linked up on the first goal was just brilliant. Also worth noting was the fact that both Vranjes and Chyrinskiy were in the starting lineup today and while I found our defense to be a little porous at times, they both had great games.

For those who wish to mark it in their calendars, the second leg will take place on the 26th of April. Its still early to say but the crowd will definitely be a sizable one, if not a sell out.

Highlights:

 

The Seba trip:

 

One of the “penalties” Olympiakos called for (I don’t see it either):

 

Another “penalty” they were calling for (maybe if they would just focus on playing the game they wouldn’t be so embarassed in front of their own supporters):