PAOKARA Add FIRE to Title Race
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 23
|PAOK||2 - 0||Olympiacos|
PAOK inflicted a third successive SuperLeague defeat on leaders Olympiacos on Sunday with an impressive 2-0 victory over the reigning champions in a highly entertaining North vs. South derby clash. The result brings PAOK within 8 points of Olympiacos while Panionios can cut the leader’s margin atop the table to four points with a win tomorrow.
After a closely contested first-half amid a typically electric atmosphere inside the Toumba stadium with both sides having chances to score, second half goals from Yevhen Shakhov and Aleksandar Prijović proved enough for Vladan Ivic’s men to claim a famous victory for their fanatical supporters.
Paul Bento’s Olympiacos, who have qualified for the last 16 of the Europa League, arrived in Thessaloniki on the back of two defeats to AEK and Panionios, and their season threatens to unravel dangerously following this latest setback.
The result saw Olympiacos’ lead at the summit cut to just seven points ahead of Panionios (host AEK tomorrow) with seven matches remaining, after the Erythrolefki had previously enjoyed an advantage of a 13-point cushion before their recent dip in form.
PAOK, meanwhile, leapfrog Panathinaikos into third spot and are a single point behind Panionios and now eight adrift of Olympiacos.
Things may have been different had Iran striker Karim Ansarifard not wasted a glorious chance to open the scoring for Olympiacos after just seven minutes when sent clean through one-on-one with Panagiotis Glykos, who made a vital save.
PAOK had some decent chances to score before the opening goal, with Brazilian forward Pedro Henrique shooting wide with only visiting keeper Nicola Leali to beat two minutes before half-time.
It was the hosts who looked more likely to score as the match wore on, and a goal duly arrived in the 53rd minute when Stelios Malezas headed Amr Warda’s corner goalwards. Leali save a great save only for Shakhov to convert the rebound and spark wild scenes of celebration among both PAOK players and fans.
And the home fans didn’t have to wait long for another goal, which came on the hour mark and with a measure of style. Neat interplay between Gokjo Cimirot and Henrique ended with the latter picking out the run of Swiss striker Prijović, who made no mistake with a clinical finish.
Try as they might, the visitors just could not find a way past the home defence and PAOK almost made it 3-0 in added time when Warda’s curler hit the post as PAOK claimed a victory which gives themselves, Panionios, and Panathinaikos real hope of catching the leaders in the run-in to the end of the season.
Bento will now have to lift his Olympiacos players for the visit of Turkish giants Besiktas to the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium for the first leg of their Round of 16 Europa League clash this coming Thursday.