Jimenez Toasts AEK Derby Triumph
AEK Athens coach Manolo Jimenez praised his team’s astonishing determination after they fought back from 2-0 down to win a pulsating Athens derby against reigning champions Olympiacos 3-2 on Sunday.
The 53-year-old Spaniard was beaming with pride at the final whistle of an end-to-end match in which his players showed why AEK can be considered title material for the first time since last winning the Greek top flight in 1994.
“I’m old enough to know [that we could come back]; I have had similar come-from-behind wins in the past so I never lost hope,” said Jimenez.
He added: “It was totally unjust that we were 2-0 down. We had dominated the first half and could have easily scored four or five goals on the first 15 minutes alone.”
The match seemed to swing in AEK’s favor with the introduction of Marko Livaja from the bench in the second half. And Jimenez admitted that the Serbian striker’s lively display was a key factor.
“Of course bringing him into the game played a role in how things turned out,” said Jimenez. “I always say it’s not how you start but how you finish games that count and he would not have had the same power and effect as he did if he had started this one.”
“Viktor Klonaridis had an excellent first 20 minutes and he could have had a couple of goals but it just wasn’t to be.”
As for whether the current victory is a signal that this AEK team can go the distance, Jimenez was keen to keep everyone’s feet firmly on the ground.
“We have soul and heart that makes us capable of beating anyone on our day, but this also has shown that if we don’t give 100 per cent then we also lose,” he said. “Let’s be patient and wait; wait to see what the next couple of months bring.”
From the Olympiacos camp there were no signs of coach Besnik Hasi giving any post-match interviews.
Reports in the Greek media even claimed that Hasi’s tenure could come to an end tonight, or at least by tomorrow morning.