Apollon Smyrnis defy the odds to guarantee Super League safety
Promoted Apollon Smyrnis long appeared doomed for a return to the Football League, but in a show of character and defiance, the club founded 127 years ago confirmed their safety two rounds before the season’s completion.
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Founded in 1891, one of the oldest clubs in Greek sport, Apollon Smyrnis are enjoying their first Super League season since the 2013/2014 campaign. However, taking into account the team’s lack of depth and quality, many expected the Athens outfit to immediately be relegated in their maiden season back in the big time.
To be honest, that prognosis appeared to be on its way to becoming a reality earlier in the season, as Apollon struggled to pick up points and went on an incredible 13-game stretch without winning a game. Back on matchday 22, Apollon dropped a potentially key 0:2 defeat to AOK Kerkyra in Corfu, but the team have pulled off an astounding comeback to guarantee their safety with two rounds yet to play.
MIRACLES FROM PARASCHOS
Boasting 29 points in 13th position of the table, the club are eight points away from the relegation zone and cannot be caught by Kerkyra. It’s something for Apollon to be proud of, especially given how life in the Super League began. Much of their success is down to head coach Georgios Paraschos, who has worked wonders with the minnows since taking the job as manager on December 12, 2017.
Apollon made an huge improvement under Paraschos, notably tightening up at the back. A perfect example is the duel against runaway leaders AEK Athens at the OAKA Stadium in mid-December, where Apollon showed admirable team unity to hold off AEK’s advances and register an important point in a battling 0:0 draw. Paraschos has earned a promising points-per-game average of 1.29 with Apollon, steering the team to at least another year of Super League football.
HOT SHOT ALMPANIS
In a match which Apollon’s loyal fans won’t forget in a hurry, the team confirmed their Super League safety with an historic 1:0 triumph against Olympiacos at home. 23-year old Christos Almpanis, the forward who scored the winning goal in that particular game, has stood out as Apollon’s star man. Scoring a grand total of eight goals in 28 league fixtures, Almpanis found a new lease of life with Paraschos at the helm, recovering from a poor start to the season to become one of the most dangerous players in the championship. The striker is a nightmare for opposing defences to handle, constantly making a nuisance of himself and popping up with crucial goals for Apollon.
Any team fighting for survival certainly requires a decent goalkeeper. Fortunately for Apollon, the club possess two of them, with Brazilian Huanderson and Croat Ivan Covic keeping goal between the sticks. Covic was initially Apollon’s number one, but as the season has progressed, Huanderson has gradually made a serious case to be the club’s top stopper. In an impressive statistic, Huanderson has earned three victories in his past four matches, including a clean sheet against giants Olympiacos. Overall, Apollon have conceded 33 goals in 28 games this season, only eight more than Olympiacos Piraeus.
Apollon are already certain to play in the Super League next season, but there are no thoughts of slacking. At the moment, Apollon are a mere three points away from 10th placed Panathinaikos, although the club do have to play high flying Asteras Tripolis and newly crowned champions AEK Athens in the last two games. Whatever happens in those fixtures, Apollon can hold their heads high after what has been a rollercoaster year.