Lucescu delighted with superb performance, Martins regrets lack of energy
Razvan Lucescu was delighted with the potentially decisive 3:1 victory over Olympiacos at home in the Super League, but Pedro Martins was angered by the visitors’ lack of energy.
On Sunday evening, PAOK hosted Olympiacos inside a sold-out Toumba Stadium, as the Thessaloniki club put their visitors to the sword 3:1 to open up a nine-point lead in first place. Inside three minutes, Vieirinha gave PAOK the lead with a superb long range effort, before Diego Biseswar later bundled in the loose ball to double the advantage. A slow, unimaginative Olympiacos side failed to create chances in the second half, and Chuba Akpom made it three in the latter stages. Daniel Podence grabbed a late consolation for Olympiacos, but it made little difference to the outcome.
PAOK manager Razvan Lucescu praised his players for their dominant performance in Thessaloniki, mentioning that the club should be 11 points ahead in the Super League: “In the first half, we managed to score twice and should have registered three more goals, but the second was perfect tactically,” stated Lucescu. “We closed every space for Olympiacos and waited for their mistakes. In the end, we scored one more goal, and we had two more opportunities as well. I congratulate all of my players with their unbelievable work today, they had will, ambition, spirit and made sacrifices.
I wouldn’t say that Olympiacos didn’t have a plan or organisation. Olympiacos is a very good team which can create danger very easily, but tonight, we showed that we’re a lot better. Our patience, our way to avoid pressing, our will to track back in defence after attacking...Olympiacos didn’t come here to lose, they were confident before the game. They prepared well, however they faced a team which has now claimed 18 wins and two draws in 20 matches. Tonight, we showed why we are 11 points ahead taking into account points which have been earned on the pitch. This win is also for the thousands of fans who always support us. Considering this win against Olympiacos, maybe the game with Apollon Smyrnis will be even more difficult than today.”
Opposing boss Pedro Martins bemoaned the opening PAOK goal which ruined his game plan: “Our strategy for this match was spoiled after three minutes,” said a deflated Martins. “We were unable to react in the first half. In the second half, we had a chance to get back into the match, however we couldn’t take advantage of it. We didn’t have either energy or aggression. This was our worst game and PAOK won fairly. The score reflects the match.
Our players didn’t stick to fair play rules? These things can happen in the heat of the moment. Throughout the game, we were passive, and we lacked the required energy. This is 100% our responsibility. We now have to focus on Thursday’s match and the game next Saturday.”
English forward Chuba Akpom, who scored the third goal to kill Olympiacos off once and for all, revealed that he had struggled to sleep ahead of this game: “Everyone had told me about this history of this match, so I knew what to expect. I was so excited before this match that I couldn’t sleep and I had dreams of scoring. I understood the importance of today’s game. Our goal was to start the first half well and carry on in the same vein. My goal? It’s the best feeling when you see the ball hit the back of the net. Comparisons to Aleksandar Prijovic? As I have said before, I am a different player to him. I want to help the team as much as I can.”
Olympiacos left-back Leonardo Koutris admitted that the main problem was PAOK’s counterattacks: “One defeat cannot ruin the entire campaign, we will continue to focus on the upcoming matches. Before today, everyone was saying that we have been playing the best football in Greece. Unfortunately, we fell into PAOK’s trap. PAOK found space and had lots of counterattacks while outnumbering us. The problem was our poor pressing.”
PAOK captain Vieirinha, the scorer of the first goal in Thessaloniki, said that the Dikefalos tou Vorra will continue with the same determined mindset: “This is an important victory, but we continue with the same serious approach. My first goal? We wanted to score early and take control of the match. It doesn’t matter if I scored or not, the main thing is that I can help the team as much as possible. Olympiacos play better football than PAOK? We were only focused on our task. My love for the fans was the main reason why I returned here.”