Ferreira: “The tie was lost in Slovakia”
PAOK boss Abel Ferreira expressed his disappointment at suffering a shock elimination against Slovan Bratislava in the UEFA Europa League playoffs, while Jan Kozak was thrilled to qualify for the group stage.
The reigning Greek champions are out of Europe. In August. Despite losing 1-0 in Slovakia last week, PAOK were still favourites to progress to the group stage of the Europa League, but two away goals for Slovan at the Toumba Stadium took the Slovaks through. Jurij Medvedev opened the scoring for Slovan with a thunderbolt, but Dimitris Limnios and Karol Swiderski got PAOK back in the game with quickfire goals in the second half. However, it wasn’t to be for PAOK, as Vernon De Marco equalised for Slovan at point blank range. In a frantic finish, Dimitris Giannoulis grabbed a third and Chuba Akpom somehow missed, but a determined Slovan side held on.
“This is a huge disappointment for us,” exclaimed a deflated Ferreira. “Our game plan worked in the second half as we managed to score three goals, but the opponents scored a lucky goal at the other end. My feeling is that the tie was lost in Slovakia. We should never have conceded twice here either.”
“I feel that we should have played with more concentration in Slovakia to avoid the situation which allowed them to score,” continued the 40-year-old Portuguese manager. “We were prepared for the style of football which Slovan play. We took risks in the second half, and we had plenty of opportunities. Once again, I believe that the tie was lost in the first leg. This is a failure, because I know that PAOK must play in Europe.”
Slovan Bratislava manager Jan Kozak expressed his happiness at qualifying in the press-conference: “I am happy with both the result and the performance,” said Kozak. “This achievement has given our fans a lot of pleasure, PAOK were the favourites to progress. We play for our supporters. After PAOK scored their goals, we proved that we have plenty of determination. I am really happy that we managed to beat a good PAOK team. Our goalkeeper’s great performance? He is there to stop shots! I want to play against big clubs in the group stage.”
Centre-back Fernando Varela didn’t hide his disappointment: “This is one of the most difficult moments for me as a PAOK player,” revealed the defender. “I did not expect Slovan to score twice at all. We tried, but it didn’t happen. Football can be like this. The ball simply didn’t want to go in. I don’t know what to say.”
Douglas Augusto also felt that the first match in Slovakia was key to the overall outcome: “The match in Slovakia played a very big role in the end result. I have mixed feelings, because we won the match but didn’t qualify for the next round of the tournament. I think that we played well today. We’ll try again in Europe next year.”