PAOK title party held up by Larissa
GREEK SUPERLEAGUE - MATCHDAY 28
|Larissa||1 - 1||PAOK|
|Jakimovski 64'||Pelkas 55'|
PAOK’s SuperLeague title party was put on hold for another week as the Thessaloniki club were held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Larissa at the AEL FC Arena on Sunday.
Dimitris Pelkas had given PAOK the lead after 55 minutes and put them within touching distance of their first league crown since 1985, but Nikola Jakimovski levelled four minutes after the hour mark to spoil the script for the visitors.
The result means that Razvan Lucescu’s PAOK still need one more point to mathematically wrap up the league title, which they will be expected to do next weekend at home in their Toumba ground against strugglers Levadiakos.
With the Black and Whites anticipated to end a 34-year wait, there will be a tremendous atmosphere expected for that match, as well as a memorable night in the club’s history for the teams fanatical fans.
PAOK came into this Matchday 28 clash knowing full well that a win would be enough to confirm them as champions, after a long season in which they are yet to be beaten in the domestic championship.
Expectations were sky-high among the PAOK fans but they were of course coming up against a Larissa team fighting for their top flight status, and this resulted in a closely-contested first half.
The best chance of the opening 45 minutes did fall to PAOK and winger Dimitris Limnios after 23 minutes, but the Greece Under-21 international was thwarted by a brilliant save from Larissa’s Icelandic goalkeeper Ögmundur Kristinsson.
Just over 10 minutes earlier the Larissa custodian had also parried an effort from Diego Biseswar out for a corner.
Larissa did not threaten the visitors’ goal in the first half as they were forced to make two changes because of injuries during the half, while PAOK also lost captain Vieirinha to injury after 36 minutes.
A relatively quiet start to the second half was hit by a bolt of lightning 10 minutes in by the boot of Dimitris Pelkas. The young PAOK playmaker was in the right place and the right time to pick up possession from a poor Nikola Jakimovski clearance, and he returned the ball with interest into the top left corner of Kristinsson’s goal.
It was a great hit and it was followed by wild celebrations on the PAOK bench as players and officials hugged each other in the knowledge that the team was now just 35 minutes from winning the title.
PAOK then slowed the tempo of the game down but it was a move that proved to be unwise as the home side got more of the ball and pushed forward.
And sure enough, in the 64th minute, Larissa got their equalising goal via a neat attacking move down the left flank. Stefan Živković and Jakimovski combined brilliantly with the latter drilling a low shot past Alexandros Paschalakis.
PAOK responded well and they should have been ahead again just four minutes later when Limnios’ cross picked out Karol Swiderski. The PAOK striker headed goalwards but the ball flashed just wide.
PAOK piled the pressure on in the closing stages in the hope of finding a winning goal, but Larissa’s defenders put in an extra shift and some dogged defending helped them hold on for what is a precious point for the Vissini.
Larissa: 1 Kristinsson (GK), 39 Gojković, 18 Moras, 28 Bralic, 30 Zivkovic, 64 Andoni, 8 Milosavljević, 25 Bertos, 17 Shikavka, 33 Nunic, 13 Jakimovski
PAOK: 31 Paschalakis (GK), 20 Vieirinha, 15 Crespo, 5 Varela, 3 Leo Matos, 26 Oliveira, 28 Shakhov, 21 Biseswar, 10 Pelkas, 18 Limnios, 9 Swiderski
HIGHLIGHTS: LARISSA - PAOK