-- EURO PAOK IN 2017! --
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - GROUP J (MATCHDAY 6)
|PAOK||2 - 0||Slovan Liberec|
PAOK will continue in the Europa League after the new year! The Dikefalos tou Vora defeated Slovan Liberec 2-0 in Thessaloniki and with Qarabag's 1-2 loss against Fiorentina, PAOK finished second in Group J, earning a ticket to the knockout stages of the Europa League! PAOK put on a great performance and with goals from Rodrigues and Pelkas in either half they celebrated their place in the Last 32 of the competition.
PAOK started the game on a mission and 3 minutes into play, Varela’s header in front of an open net unbelievably missed the target from 2 meters out. PAOK continued their heavy pressure in Liberec’s half and the breakthrough looked all the more probable as the match went on.
In the 29th minute, after a great solo effort from Leo Matos on the right side, his cross found Rodrigues and he made no mistake from inside the penalty area to give PAOK the 1-0 lead. The visitors were lucky to go into halftime only down by one as Athanasiadis and Leo Matos had great chances (denied by Dubravka) to double PAOK’s lead before the break.
Liberec played more offensive football in the second half while PAOK waited to attack on the counter. Liberec’s front line did not pose a threat to the hosts and in the 67th minute, Pelkas doubled PAOK’s lead.
Another great effort from the wing (this time from Leovac) was turned in by the young Greek player giving PAOK the 2-0 lead. There were “extra” celebrations at the Toumba Stadium as Fiorentina opened the scoring in Azerbaijan against Qarabag in the other group match (PAOK needed a better result than Qarabag to advance).
Minutes later, Qarabag pulled level, but thankfully more good news came from Azerbaijan when Fiorentina retook the lead (1-2) late in the second half. PAOK had complete control of the result in Thessaloniki and the Dikefalos tou Vora gladly accepted the gift from Fiorentina (won 1-2) as they advanced to the Europa League knockout stages for the first time in three years.
Today's results put PAOK in second place of Group J with 10 points, finishing behind Fiorentina who had 13-points. Qarabag claimed third place with 7 point and Liberec finished bottom with 4 points.
Despite a rough start to the season in Greece, PAOK will continue in Europe after the new year with hopes of advancing to the last 16 of the competition. PAOK will be unseeded in the draw which will take place on December 12, meaning they will be paired with a seeded team (a group winne or one of the best 4 third placed teams from the Champions League).