Engels Seals North-South Derby Win For Olympiacos
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 8
|Olympiacos||1 - 0||PAOK|
Bjorn Engels scored the only goal of the game as Olympiacos earned a crucial 1-0 win over PAOK in a tense SuperLeague North-South derby between the two title contenders at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.
Belgian centre-back Engels struck six minutes after half-time, bundling the ball home after a Kosta Fortounis free-kick caused panic in the PAOK penalty box to win three vital three points for the defending champions.
PAOK retain top spot in the table, but the result puts Olympiacos right back in the title race, moving Takis Lemonis’ team on to 14 points, just one point behind the Salonica club.
Razvan Lucescu’s men had enjoyed the lion’s share of scoring chances in an impressive first-half, but couldn’t find a way past home goalkeeper Silvio Proto.
Both sides went into the clash in Piraeus with a point to prove after contrasting starts to the season. PAOK arrived keen to prove their title-chasing credentials, while a stuttering Olympiacos team, who have made the worst start to a season for 30 years, were in need of a big derby win to kick-start their season.
The kick-off was delayed for 10 minutes while the players waited for smoke to clear following an impressive flare show from Olympiacos’ Gate 7 ultras, and when the match got underway it was an open and frantic start with both sides looking to press forward early on.
A couple of early crosses which fizzed across goal and one or two tasty tackles had the noisy crowd on their feet, and it was only after 10 minutes that the game settled into any kind of rhythm, with the home side controlling much of the possession.
PAOK looked well set up, however, and threatened dangerously on the counter attack with the direct running of Omar El Kaddouri and Robert Mak posing threats on both flanks.
And it was from an El Kaddouri run and cross which saw the visitors have the first sight of goal in the 15th minute, but striker Aleksandar Prijovic blazed high over Silvio Proto’s crossbar with a first-time shot.
Mak then had a tame snapshot saved low by Proto three minutes later from another promising attack fashioned by some quick passing on the break from PAOK.
Olympiacos’ first clear shot on goal came from the unlikeliest of sources after 28 minutes, with centre-back Pape Cisse blasting a knock-down from Engels over the PAOK crossbar when the big defender should really have done better.
The hosts then had two a half-chances in the space of a few minutes as half-time approached, left-back Leonardo Koutris breaking dangerously into the box in the 36th minute but his shot from a tight angle was blocked, Then Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard just failed to connect with a superb cross from Felipe Pardo.
PAOK burst forward on the stroke of half-time and opened up the hosts’ defence, but the move ended in an anti-climax as Jose Mauricio Junior scuffed a tame shot straight at Proto from the edge of the penalty area when he had plenty of time and space to pick his spot.
The game finally came to life six minutes after half-time when the hosts broke the deadlock to go 1-0 up. Greece midfielder Kostas Fortounis whipped over a dangerous free-kick, and after some goalmouth pinball in the PAOK six yard box, the ball was turned in by Engels.
PAOK looked shellshocked by the goal and it took the visitors until the 71st minute to fashion an opening, but Leo Matos headed wide when he should have made Proto make a save.
Luscescu’s players piled on the pressure in the closing stages as they went in search of an equalizer, but there was no way past a determined Olympiacos rearguard as the hosts held firm.