Panathinaikos Wreck PAOK’s Champions League Dream
GREEK superleague playoffs - MATCHDAY 6
|PAOK||2 - 3||Panathinaikos|
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Or perhaps in this case a beer served cold. But despite the warm temperatures as summer officially begins tomorrow, it must feel pretty chilly in Thessaloniki tonight.
Panathinaikos twice came from a goal down on Wednesday to defeat PAOK 3-2 at the Toumba and prevent Vladan Ivic’s side from qualifying for the Champions League on an astonishing final night of SuperLeague match action.
The result, coupled with AEK Athens’ 2-1 win over Panionios in Nea Smyrni, meant that Manolo Jimenez’s team were crowned SuperLeague playoff winners with 12 points, a single point ahead of PAOK, and it is the Yellow and Blacks who earn Greece’s second Champions League berth at PAOK’s expense.
That will be a bitter pill for Ivic and his Greek Cup winners to swallow as they were overwhelming favorites to claim top spot after they were awarded a 3-0 win on paper against Panathinaikos in the corresponding fixture when Ivic was hit with a beer can and the match abandoned.
There was plenty of spikiness in this one after the controversy surrounding the corresponding playoff match between both teams which was abandoned, with players going in hard at every opportunity in an enthralling encounter.
And the Greens banished the memory of that controversy with a rousing backs-against-the-wall display.
Things had looked rosy for PAOK early on after Dutch midfielder Diego Biseswar gave them the lead after 20 minutes following a high-octane start by the home side. But the lead lasted just eight minutes with Victor Klonaridis equalising for Panathinaikos.
PAOK went in front again courtesy of Pedro Henrique after a poor defensive mistake by Greens defender Giorgos Koutroubis. The PAO central defender played an awful backpass aimed for Odysseas Vlachodimos which was far too short. Henrique collected the ball before rounding Vlachodimos and slotting the ball into an empty net.
Panathinaikos, again with several first team regulars missing, refused to lie down, however, and pulled level again with 11 minutes left through Robin Lod, who slotted in from a Koutroubis knock-down.
That score was enough to end PAOK’s Champions League dream with AEK winning at Panionios, but the Greens were not finished there, with Swedish winger Guillermo Molins rubbing salt into the wounds with a winning goal three minutes into added time.
While the result is devastating for PAOK, Ivic and his team can take heart in the fact that they have had an exceptional season, winning the cup and challenging all the way in the upper echelons of the SuperLeague in what has been an intriguing campaign.