SLGR Review Part 3: OFI save themselves while PAS Giannina fall through trapdoor
In the final installment of a three-part series, AGONAsport reviews the 2018/2019 Super League season, finishing off with the teams in the bottom four positions.
With the well-documented changes coming to the Greek football ladder, three teams were automatically relegated to the newly created Super League 2, while the club in 13th position competed against the second-best Football League side. Apollon Smyrnis, Levadiakos and PAS Giannina all fell through the trapdoor, but OFI saved themselves with a memorable playoff triumph over Platanias.
Let’s take a closer, more detailed look at the four teams’ fortunes:
OFI protected their Super League status in the most dramatic way possible. After finishing in 13th place due to a negative head-to-head record with Xanthi, OFI dropped into the relegation/promotion playoff against fellow Cretans Platanias, and they were heading out on away goals in the second leg. However, in the sixth minute of stoppage time, Adil Nabi struck gold with a clever free-kick to save OFI’s bacon amid wild celebrations at the packed Theodoros Vardinogiannis Stadium.
The club appeared destined for relegation for the majority of the season, but after Jaime Vera became head coach in January, OFI’s fortunes gradually improved. In an impressive end to the campaign, OFI defeated Panathinaikos (3:1) and Atromitos (2:0) on the road, playing attractive, pacey football along the way. Brazilian prospect Felipe Souza, on loan from Curico Unido, is a real prospect for the future with his technical, exciting approach to the game. AEK loanee Giorgos Giakoumakis added extra passion with his enthusiasm.
Following the enthralling win against Platanias, Nabi promised that this is the start of something special for OFI: “Next season, we will be challenging for the top positions. This is just the start.”
This eight-year stay in the Super League is over. Three years ago, PAS Giannina were playing European football, but a miserable 2018/2019 season has seen the historic Ioannina club suffer the drop for the first time since returning to the top flight in 2011.
Until the last few weeks of the season, it seemed PAS would move into the relegation/promotion playoff, but awful form resulted in automatic demotion to the Super League 2. A lack of ruthlessness cost PAS vital points in underwhelming draws against Xanthi (0:0), Lamia (1:1), AEL (0:0) and Asteras Tripolis (0:0), while the 0:1 defeat to OFI in Heraklion was decisive. PAS’ sole victory in the last 10 rounds was a 2:0 triumph away to relegated Levadiakos.
19 goals in 30 matches simply isn’t good enough. The fact that top scorer Sandi Krizman only registered four goals speaks volumes. At the other end, goalkeepers Markos Vellidis and young Cypriot Neofytos Michael were reliable for the most part, but the same can’t be said for experienced forwards Stefanos Athanasiadis (two goals) and Olympiacos loanee Dimitris Manos (three goals). A dismal record of four goals between matchdays 20 and 30 perfectly displays why PAS fell through the trap door.
Every year Levadiakos embark on a Great Escape, but this time around they were out of luck. Claiming a mere five wins, Levadiakos have been relegated to the Super League 2, where they will attempt to immediately spring back to the top tier.
In February, it appeared another miracle was around the corner, as Levadiakos earned six precious points with two consecutive victories against Panetolikos and Xanthi. Nevertheless, that proved to be their final moment of joy, with Levadiakos subsequently losing six of their last eight matches to be sent down to the second division.
The lack of quality was there for all to see, and very few Levadiakos players emerged from the season with any kind of credit. In the past three years, key forward Petros Giakoumakis always managed to score a minimum of six Super League goals, but this season he only hit the target once.
What a truly miserable season it was for the Rizoupoli-based outfit. Two wins, 10 points...to put it lightly, Apollon Smyrnis were woeful.
Apollon were doomed right from the beginning. Poor management left the team in a bad condition, and with head coaches arriving and departing with alarming regularity, there wasn’t any chance to gain stability. From the players’ point of view, the effort seemed to be there, but they were horribly outclassed in nearly every game. Their two wins were gained against Xanthi (1:0) at home and Panionios (1:0) away.
On a more positive note, Lebanese forward Hilal El-Helwe showed touches of class, and he will now continue his career elsewhere.