Positive vibes despite the defeat
The “Double-Headed Eagle” lost 4-2 to AFC Ajax in their last friendly encounter in the Netherlands. PAOK returned to the familiar 4-2-3-1 and played well for most parts of the game, but some defensive errors deprived them from a positive result.
Aleksandar Stanojević made good on his promise. He changed the team’s formation, fielding a 4-2-3-1 with two defensive midfielders in the first half and a 4-1-2-3 with one holding midfielder and two interiors in front of him after the interval. The “Double-Headed Eagle” played well for most of the match, passing the ball fluently, creating danger in AFC Ajax’s box and scoring twice. But some errors and sloppiness in their defense allowed the Dutch side to score some cheap goals and eventually win.
The home side started stronger. In the 4th minute, Černý was denied by the post, but one minute later, Mazraoui’s excellent drive first hit the post and then went into the net for AFC Ajax’s opener. PAOK tried to react, but their rivals’ relentless pressing didn’t allow them to play their game. In the 26th minute, the Dutch doubled their lead with a header by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Nine minutes later, Aleksandar Prijović wasted a glorious opportunity to reduce distances, misfiring from close range. Momentum shifted in the 37th minute. AFC Ajax were awarded a penalty after a foul of Pedro Henrique, Rodrigo Rey produced a spectacular save on his unofficial PAOK debut and, from then on, the “Double-Headed Eagle” took the reins of the encounter. They advanced their lines, pressured their rivals and created chances to scor. In the 38th minute, they got on the scoreboard with a header by Fernando Varela on a cross by Róbert Mak.
After the interval, PAOK kept the initiative and managed to equalize with a beautiful header by Prijović, fed by Dorian Lévêque . Stanojević’s men were enthusiastic, won their duels and searched for a third goal. Against the run of play though, Cassierra found himself unmarked in PAOK’s box and beat Rey to make it 3-2 for the home side. The two coaches shuffled their packs, but that didn’t disrupt the fast pace of the encounter. In the 87th minute, Léo Matos charged into Ajax’s area from the right, but his shot was denied by the post. Two minutes later, Fleming made it 4-2 with a close-range finish.