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PAOK looking to overcome Ajax at third time of asking

PAOK looking to overcome Ajax at third time of asking

PAOK will face a difficult task when they come up against Dutch giants Ajax in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League, with history being against the Dikefalos tou Vorra.

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This summer, PAOK’s focus has been on qualifying for the group stages of the Champions League, but they have immediately been given a hugely difficult task against Ajax in the third qualifying round. Ajax, who reached the semi-finals of the competition last year, eliminated PAOK from the Champions League qualifiers in both 2010 and 2016. Out of those four games, Ajax claimed one outright victory, while the remaining three finished level.

July 28, 2010. Ajax - PAOK - 1:1, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg

Luis Suarez scored an overhead goal in order to give Ajax the advantage in the 13th minute. The Dutch outfit were dominating possession, but with the likes of Suarez wasting plenty of chances, the hosts couldn’t put the game to bed. With 17 minutes remaining, PAOK punished Ajax for their profligacy, as Vladimir Ivic sneaked beyond the Ajax defence to give the Greeks a crucial away goal and the advantage heading into the second leg in Thessaloniki.

August 4, 2010. PAOK - Ajax - 3:3, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg

In the second leg at Toumba Stadium, PAOK started superbly, opening the scoring through Vieirinha within 16 minutes. However, at the start of the second half, Suarez and Siem de Jong scored in quick succession to put Ajax in the box seat. A goalkeeping error from Dario Kresic from PAOK secured victory for Ajax with Swedish midfielder, Rasmus Lindgren scoring from long distance. Fighting gallantly, PAOK equalised on the night with Dimitris Salpingidis and Ivic scoring, but it wasn’t enough to qualify.

July 26, 2016. Ajax - PAOK - 1:1, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg

The first leg of the duel in Amsterdam was certainly end-to-end, with both teams creating several opportunities. Beating Ajax goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, Djalma Campos handed PAOK a valuable lead away from home, hitting the jackpot from a tight angle. Nevertheless, PAOK were unable to hold out for the entire 90 minutes, as Kasper Dolberg equalised with an outstanding finish from outside the box.

August 3, 2016. PAOK - Ajax - 1:2, UEFA Champions League third qualifying round second leg

Inside three minutes, Stefanos Athanasiadis gave PAOK the lead in the second leg in Thessaloniki from a corner. During the first half, PAOK had three fantastic opportunities to extend their lead, but they failed to capitalise and were left to rue their profligacy. On the stroke of half time, Davy Klaassen calmly scored with a penalty after clumsy PAOK player, before the same player struck gold with an outstanding volley in the 86th minute to seal Ajax’s victory and progress to the playoff round.

Ajax against Greek opposition

The first time when Ajax met Greek opposition was the 2:0 win against Panathinaikos in the 1970/1971 European Cup final. Ajax then lost 0:2 to Olympiacos in the 1983/1984 edition of the competition, but they got revenge over the Erythrolefkoi in the 1986/1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup, destroying the Piraeus club 5:1 in the Last 16. The two clubs traded wins (1:0 Olympiacos, 2:0 Ajax) in the group phase of the 1998/1999 Champions League.

In the 1994/1995 UEFA Champions League, Ajax played against AEK in the group stage, tallying six points with 2:1 and 2:0 victories. Next season, the Dutch beat Panathinaikos 3:1 in the Champions League semi-finals and twice got the better of the Greens in the 2016/2017 Europa League groups (2:1, 2:0).

Last year, Ajax once again met AEK in the group phase of the Champions League, comfortably winning 3:0 in Amsterdam and 2:0 in Athens.

 

by Athan Stylos

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