Ferreira: “We have to implement our game plan in the Netherlands”
Following the thrilling 2:2 draw against Ajax in the UEFA Champions League, PAOK coach Abel Ferreira stated that his goal hasn’t changed, while his opposite number Erik ten Hag was satisfied with the result.
Considering their success last season, Ajax began the match as clear favourites, and they made the breakthrough in Thessaloniki with Dimitris Giannoulis inadvertently glancing Hakim Ziyech’s free-kick into the net. However, PAOK came roaring back, suddenly taking the lead with quickfire goals from Chuba Akpom and Leo Matos. PAOK were playing with huge intensity, but early in the second half, Klass-Jan Huntelaar notched a vital equaliser for Ajax as he deflected Fernando Varela’s clearance beyond Alexandros Paschalakis.
Abel Ferreira thanked the PAOK fans for their support inside the sold-out Toumba Stadium: “I would like to thank the fans for their support in the first match of the season,” stated Ferreira. “The atmosphere was amazing, and playing in front of such supporters gives us extra motivation. They deserve happy moments with PAOK. From the outset, we knew it would be difficult against a team which likes protecting possession. After the conceded goal, we kept our composure, and we had opportunities to score more.
Ajax have a great team and a coach who has been creating this side for 2.5 years. However, our target hasn’t changed. Our goal is to defeat Ajax. We must stick to our game plan in the Netherlands. Both of the Ajax goals today were fortunate.”
Ajax boss Erik ten Hag isn’t complacent ahead of the second leg in Amsterdam: “We can say that this is a good result for us, but the tie isn’t over,” revealed the 49-year-old manager. “2:2 isn’t enough to guarantee qualification. Initially, we started the game well and controlled the ball, but we had an issue with Kasper Dolberg’s injury and we conceded. The opponents immediately improved after scoring.”
“We had lost control of the game when PAOK scored,” continued the Ajax head coach. “Fortunately, we had possession of the ball in the second half, and we equalised like we did against Vitesse at the weekend. We had chances to make it 3:2 in our favour, but the ball didn’t go in. It’s still a good result for us, though. In my opinion, PAOK are stronger than both Dynamo Kyiv and Standard Liege, so we have to be careful in the second game. We have to make less mistakes.”
PAOK midfielder Diego Biseswar, who was one of the outstanding performers for the Dikefalos tou Vorra, mentioned the chances which his team had: “Yes, Ajax had the ball, but we had chances,” revealed the Dutchman. “At home, we expect Ajax to play more aggressively, so openings will appear on the counterattack. We missed chances today, but we still have hope of qualifying for the next round. We must achieve our goal in the Netherlands.”
Hakim Ziyech, the scorer of the first Ajax goal, also shared his opinions with the media: “It really doesn’t matter who scores, the only important thing is that we find the back of the net. Following our first goal, we began to lose possession too easily, and we started to become frustrated. We were poor in the first half, but we improved in the second. Interest from Bayern Munich? I am here to play for Ajax.”