More than just a point for Panathinaikos
AGONAsport’s Panathinaikos contributor, Nick Tsambouniaris, discusses the Trifylli’s gutsy performance against their eternal rivals, Olympiacos, despite the surrounding off-the-field hardships the club faces.
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Skillful substitute Anthony Mounier may have stolen the headlines with his late penalty at an empty Karaiskaki, but it was another solid team effort that proved to be the catalyst in Panathinaikos’ enthralling 1-1 draw with Eternal Rivals, Olympiacos.
A determined Panathinaikos outfit stuck to the game plan and frustrated the more illustrious hosts for large periods before stunning them with a late surge. In fact, the resurgent Greens upped the ante after the dismissal of centre back Vangelis Oikonomou, taking more risks by throwing caution to the wind. The substitutions of Mounier and young gun Tasos Chatzigiovannis proved to be a massive turning point.
Prior to that, it was a rather drab showing, particularly in the first half. Christos Donis being asked to play out of position up front significantly hamstrings the team but his weak long range effort was the only shot on target for Panathinaikos in the first half. Robin Lod came close to converting a low cross but Olympiacos controlled possession without dominating.
A pleasing aspect of the whole performance was the defensive organisation. Compared to a makeshift Panathinaikos backline. Fullbacks Insua and Johansson started the season as squad players, Oikonomou was signed in January on a free move, Kourbelis played out of his preferred position. Yet they contained the likes of Mirallas, Marin and Fortounis with relative ease. Avlonitis also deserves credit for his role when coming on.
Furthermore, the mentality of the team was again on point. One cannot help but think Ouzounidis played a part in this, but the players treated it as a ‘cup final’ and chased every ball as if it was their last. Just look at Omri Altman. Putting his body on the line in literally the final play of the game and he is now facing a lengthy stint on the sidelines due to injury. Mounier declared that the result was in honour of the Israeli youth international.
Just like earlier this season, the players have made the fans proud. Key players such as Moledo, Villafanez, and Hult (that played in the home clash) have been sold, Molins was injured. Yet the attitude was still the same. In these derbies, it helps playing with a Greek core and that is exactly how Ouzounidis set it up. Vlachodimos (another who was outstanding) between the sticks, Kourbelis and Oikonomou in the heart of defence, Tzandaris in centre midfield and Donis up front. These players know the significance of the clash. On the other hand, Panagiotis Tachtsidis was the only Greek who started for the Reds.
This strong mentality and never-say-die attitude was in full force after Fortounis put the hosts ahead. Panathinaikos could have easily buckled and blamed the officials for a shocking decision, but instead they took their game up a few notches searching for an equaliser with 10 men. As luck would have it, the Trifylli would eventually benefit from a poor call themselves but it was the least they deserved.
Former fan favourites such as Zeca and Villafanez congratulating the side highlights the culture fostered by Ouzounidis at the struggling club. Going undefeated in 3 straight clashes against the arch rivals is always sweet but even more so when you consider the surrounding circumstances. The club is going through the darkest times off the pitch. The red card Oikonomou received was dodgy to say the least, as well as conceding directly from it but the fight and belief was still there.
The praise continued in the form of manager Ouzounidis and captain Kourbelis, congratulating the team for its application and hunger. The aim from here is to now finish in 5th spot and continue the form in the remaining fixtures which will present different challenges of their own. As the club stated Sunday’s derby result represents a bigger win than just a mere point. Long-suffering fans will know exactly what this means and we can only thank Ouzounidis and the players.