Greek SuperLeague First Half Review (Part 1 of 2)
AGONAsport’s Greg Gavalas gives his review of the first half of the Greek SuperLeague season in his first of a two part blog series.
by Greg Gavalas
One of the closest Greek Superleague title races in at least 6 years has hit the halfway mark and fans are loving the fact that 4 teams are separated by only 2 points at the top.
You have to go back much more than 6 years though for a time Greece had 4 teams this close in December, 19 years in fact and even then it was not this close.
The four teams fighting for the honours at the top are Atromitos, PAOK, AEK and Olympiakos. Each team has had their time on the top spot, however Olympiakos hit number one on the last match day of 2017 after AEK failed to score against Apollon Smyrnis at home, handing the Reds from Piraeus yet another Winter Championship.
Atromitos started the season with wins and draws but not many goals, however after opening the season with 4 consecutive draws, all that followed were wins including 1-0 wins away from home over Olympiakos and AEK, and joining Panathinaikos (PAO) and Apollon as the only clubs to have ever done that in a season.
Atromitos achieved another record in their run this season, going 10 matches straight without conceding a goal, defence and goalkeeper in great form. When PAOK’s Vierinha scored a penalty which lead to a 2-1 win for the Thessaloniki club against the Peristeri side, it hurt given Atromitos had a few players out that game.
Read more about Atromitos’s great season in a previous blog on AGONAsport.com by Greg Gavalas.
PAOK started the new season in poor fashion when they terminated head coach Aleksandar Stanojevic a week before the League started, but stole Razvan Lucescu from Xanthi in the 12th hour. Whilst not playing great football early on, PAOK for the most part was getting results, 1-0 loses to Olympiakos and AEK hurt, however since handing Atromitos their first loss of the season, PAOK has stepped up 2 gears. The Dikefalos tou Vora are now scoring goals at will in Cup and League games, including a 4-0 thrashing of Panathinaikos, PAOK has a goal differential of 18-1 in their last 5 games.
Greek Midfielder Dimitris Pelkas has been in great form, as has the returning Portuguese midfielder Vieirinha who has 4 assists, helping striker Aleksandar Prijovic to 6 goals.
AEK were the form team of the season for the most part, besides a surprise loss to Asteras Tripolis and a couple of match day struggles after that, the season has been good for the Kitrinomavri. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos regained some of his best ever form, Marko Livaja was the revelation of the season, both players scoring more goals this season than combined seasons previously.
Along with a strong run in the UEFA Europa League, it was expected that after more than 10 years, AEK would finish as Winter Champions but a surprise 0-0 draw with Apollon followed suit to what AEK fans have become accustomed to, stumbling when it matters. But there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel. AEK have done very well considering they are minus their two best players, Petros Mantalos and Jakob Johansson, both players, shockingly suffering season ending knee injuries.
There is no doubt Panagiotis Kone, Astrit Ajdarevic, and Kostas Galanopoulos will need to step up, but as another key player in midfield, Andre Simoes is also injured as this goes to press and will be out for one month as well.
Olympiakos had a poor start to the season. After some undesirable results, coach Besnik Hasi was sacked and the recent saviour Takis Lemonis was brought in again.
A horrendous European run that made the record books for the wrong reasons, and loses to AEK and Panathinaikos, Olympiakos re-grouped and has since won their last 6 games in the league and after AEK’s dropped points at home to Apollon Smyrnis, the defending champions are back on top of the league all be by one point.
German midfielder Marko Marin has been in great form and Iranian striker Karim Ansarifard has proven to be a game changer; with 7 goals he leads the goal scoring charts alongside PAS Giannina striker Pedro Conde.
Panionios have remained a step above the rest this season, but they have lost pace with the top 4. The Panthers from Nea Smyrni started the season very well, but a shock loss to Lamia started a run of inconsistency, good performances, but unlucky score lines against the big clubs were not followed through in matches they were expected to win.
Highlights would be their win over Panathinaikos at Leoforos in their best game of the season, their first win away to PAO since 2001. The other is the stellar form of Lazaros Lamprou on loan from PAOK.
Asteras Tripolis have experienced two very different sides to the first of the half season. From the first part of the season where they recorded just 1 win in their first 9 matches, they have now won 5 of their last 6 matches, only playing to a draw in their last game of the year.
They have acquired more points in the last 6 rounds than everyone but for Olympiakos and how they continue in 2018, will be an interesting watch.
Larisa have recovered very well in late October after languishing in relegation land for most of the season till then. It took 8 rounds for them to register their first win (0-1 away to Platanias) and since then, have only suffered one loss. As a result, Larisa went from 14th and 15th position, to 7th now.
Levadiakos have done the opposite to both Asteras and Larisa, after a great start to the season which saw them go 3-5-0 up to round 8, a 1-0 loss away to Larisa saw a run of 1-1-5. The one win came in the last matchday against Panionios, which will have restored some confidence to the team, with their two goals scored in that one match doubling the one goal scored in their previous 6 matches.
Xanthi are enduring their most inconsistent season for a long time as the normally stable club on and off the field, is experiencing a rollercoaster season. The wins have been spread out amongst the draws and blanks. The one highlight though is in-form striker, Erik Jendrisek, the Slovakian is another get goal scoring buy from the Northern club, his 6 goals have him equal 2nd on the top scorers sheet.
PAS Giannina, like Xanthi and Levadiakos, have had a season of draws and losses with some wins mixed in there. More so for the Giannina team, who have only recorded 3 wins remarkably, they have a good squad and have drawn many games they should have won, so one would think much practise with finishing in the short off season could do them wonders.
Part two coming soon…