PAOK outplay AEK to win consecutive Greek Cups
AGONAsport’s PAOK contributor, Athan Stylos, takes a look at the Dikefalos tou Vorra’s convincing Greek Cup Final victory over AEK Athens.
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PAOK and AEK, Greece’s best two teams during the 2017/2018 season, faced off in a Greek Cup final which was shrouded by bad blood. Before the game started, the animosity was visible on the streets of Athens as nasty, violent skirmishes were witnessed between the two sets of fans. Still, the match lived up to its billing, with two goals, a missed penalty, three red cards and a cauldron-like atmosphere all seen at the Olympic Stadium.
In dominating proceedings, PAOK proved that they are surely the country’s top team at this moment in time, creating enough opportunities against a lacklustre AEK to score at least four or five goals. The only reason why the match was a contest for so long was imposing shot stopper Vasilis Barkas, who pulled off a number of superb saves to give AEK a fighting chance.
Nevertheless, the Dikefalos tou Vorra eventually got what they deserved, as two fantastic second half goals from MVP Vieirinha and Dimitris Pelkas sunk AEK. It was fitting that Pelkas, a lifelong PAOK fan, grabbed the goal which secured the victory after everything which the club have been through this season.
Following the numerous court battles which robbed PAOK of the Super League title, the entire organisation was determined to get one over their rivals and claim silverware. Many believe PAOK should have won the double, but when the games against Olympiacos and AEK were abandoned in quick succession, it became clear that it simply wasn’t the club’s year. The Olympiacos situation was particularly interesting - the game was stopped when Thrylos boss Oscar Garcia was struck by an object thrown from the standings, but photos of the team sheets showed that the Spaniard shouldn’t have even been on the pitch. PAOK owner Ivan Savvidis then ruined the title charge altogether, charging onto the field of play with a gun after a late goal against AEK was disallowed for offside.
Regardless of the public’s reaction surrounding club supremo Ivan Savvidis, PAOK players paid tribute to their owner in the exuberant celebrations, wearing special masks dedicated to the businessman. Savvidis’ actions did cost PAOK the Super League title, but his overall contribution to the team’s achievements in recent seasons deserved appreciation.
Although everyone within the club was devastated that PAOK couldn’t break their 33-year league drought, you have to be satisfied with PAOK’s showings throughout the season considering they sacked Serbian manager Aleksandar Stanojevic 56 days after he was signed. Razvan Lucescu was drafted in, and it has to be said that the 49-year old Romanian did a fantastic job in Thessaloniki, managing to install a determined team ethic and create a family unit.
Ahead of the upcoming UEFA Champions League campaign, PAOK will be hoping to keep this squad together in order to achieve bigger and better things next year. Solid foundations are in place.