-- Athanasiadis Back to Lead PAOK! --
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - GROUP STAGE (GROUP J)
|Slovan Liberec||1 - 2||PAOK|
|Komlichenko 1'||Athanasiadis (p) 9', 82'|
PAOK earned a 1-2 victory in the Czech Republic against Liberec after falling behind in the opening 46 seconds. Athanasiadis made an emphatic comeback to the starting lineup scoring both goals for the Dikefalos tou Vora, including the winner in the 82nd minute. The win makes PAOK the clear favorites to advance to the knockout stages from Group J.
PAOK began the match in a 4-3-3 formation with Glykos, Leo Matos, Varela, Tzavellas, Leovac, Cimirot, Canas, Shahkhov, Campos, Rodrigues, and Athanasiadis. It was a horrific start for PAOK as they fell behind only 46 seconds into play. The PAOK defense fell asleep as Sykora uncontestedly entered their penalty area, finding Komlichenko, and the Russian’s shot beat Glykos to give the hosts the 1-0 lead. Slovan Liberec came close to a second goal minutes later, but fortunately for PAOK Glykos made an acrobatic save to deny Hovorko’s header from the corner. In the 9th minute, PAOK was awarded a penalty when Sykora committed a handball as Rodrigues entered the penalty area. From the spot, Athanasiadis made no mistake to bring PAOK level 1-1. After the action-filled opening 10 minutes, neither team created a classical chance to score with the pace of the match falling midway through the half.
Liberec began the second half as the stronger side, controlling the possession, but failed to create a chance on goal. The first opportunity fell to PAOK in the 72nd minute through Mystakidis’ effort that did not find the target and minutes later Liberec was denied by the post from Komlichenko’s shot. With 8 minutes remaining, Leovac’s cross found the head of Athanasiadis and the Greek striker scored his second goal of the night to give PAOK the late 1-2 lead. Liberec pressed in the final minutes for an equalizer but PAOK’s defense was able to hold onto their advantage. With Liberec’s goalie up for the final chance of the game, Rodrigues had an opportunity to seal the victory in front of an open goal but he failed to find the target from 35 meters out.
The win puts PAOK atop of Group J, along with Fiorentina (defeated Qarabag 5-1 today), with 4 points. PAOK and Fiorentina are now the clear favorites to advance from the group to the knockout stages. In matchday 3, PAOK will travel to Azerbaijan to face Qarabag.