PAOK – Greece’s best team outside of the courts
PAOK's overall performance throughout the Greek Super League season was impressive, but despite breaking plenty of records, the title was lost after two controversial court trials.
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Excluding the home match against Olympiacos which never began PAOK picked up 70 points in 30 Super League matches when taking away all points deductions, exactly the same amount as AEK. It could have been more too, had the game with the Thrylos at the Toumba Stadium taken place.
When the title decided against AEK was abandoned, PAOK were handed a 0:3 defeat and deducted three points, in effect losing all hopes of winning the championship. In an impressive statistic, PAOK won 15 of the last 18 matches, but were denied a decisive victory over the Kitrinomavri when Fernando Varela’s last-gasp header was disallowed for a contentious offside decision.
Throughout the entire season, the Dikefalos tou Vorra saw points taken away from them by the courts, including having to play nine home matches behind closed doors. Still, PAOK can consider themselves rather lucky not to get relegated due to Ivan Savvidis’ actions when he entered the pitch with a gun against AEK in Thessaloniki.
Considering Olympiacos endured their worst campaign for 20 years, AEK were PAOK’s main contenders for the Super League trophy, but it was the Thessaloniki side who surely played the best football over the course of the year.
If it wasn’t for the unfortunate scenes we witnessed twice in the space of three weeks when a PAOK fan threw an object at former Olympiacos manager Oscar Garcia and Savvidis made his wild-west like pitch invasion, PAOK would most probably have been crowned champions of Greece.
With strong financial backing and a united team spirit, PAOK have to build on this season’s success and continue making steps in the right direction next year, especially given that the club have a shot at finally making it to the UEFA Champions League group stages.
A key factor was finding the right manager. Serbian Aleksandar Stanojević was extraordinarily sacked after less than 2 months in the job, but the incoming Răzvan Lucescu managed to get the best out of this talented group, winning the Greek Cup and coming within a whisker of taking the domestic league.
The only negative this season for the club was their disappointing exit from the UEFA Europa League, when they were eliminated by Swedish side Östersund after Lucescu had only been in the hot-seat for just over a month.
Many players have stepped up to the plate and enjoyed the best season of their careers. The return of Vieirinha, the captain, has been crucial for the club, as he was clearly been the best left back in the league and helped PAOK retain the Greek Cup with a stunning free kick.
Aleksandar Prijović scored 19 goals during the entire league campaign and was rewarded by winning the Greek Super League’s top scorer award.
Shot stopper Alexandros Paschalakis was originally supposed to be the backup goalkeeper, but he was solid as a rock when taking over the reigns, setting the PAOK record for amount of consecutive minutes without conceding a goal.
It was a successful season for PAOK on the pitch, but unfortunately for their long suffering fan base, it wasn’t a year when they were crowned Greek Super League champions.