Comeback in PAOK style
When PAOK are in a tough spot and have their back against the wall, they know how to bring out their unique character. Despite their many and significant absences and being 2-0 down, the “Double-Headed Eagle” turned around the Leoforos match and edged out a 2-2 draw. Given their overall performance, they could have even gotten more out of the match.
The match was decided by Igor Tudor’s sharp mind. He quickly realized that his 3-4-3 formation with Róbert Mak spearheading the attack and Dimitris Pelkas and Giannis Mystakidis on the flanks wasn’t working properly and decided to switch to 3-5-2. Pelkas moved behind Mak and Mystakidis and PAOK became more concrete and gained better ball circulation.
After the first 30 minutes, the “Double-Headed Eagle” were clearly the better team on the pitch. Panathinaikos kept the tradition of all PAOK rivals scoring with their first shot on goal. Besides that however, they didn’t threaten Markos Vellidis’s goal and couldn’t produce organized attacks against PAOK’s solid defence.
Panathinaikos extended their lead –again with their first shot in the second half– from a corner of… PAOK! The home side launched a counterattack with Kaltsas making it 2-0 in minute 51. Another side would have yielded under the burden of stress. But not PAOK!
Steele produced a magnificent save in the 54th minute to a close-range shot by Stelios Kitsiou, but it was just impossible for him to stop the net-buster fired by Gojko Cimirot. This goal helped PAOK gain self-confidence. They were also assisted by Stramaccioni’s decision to substitute Vlachodimos and Kaltsas and introduce Evangelista and Klonaridis who never really got into the match tempo.
PAOK continued to increase their tempo and dominated the encounter, looking for the equalizer. They got their reward in the 67th minute thanks to an outstanding team effort. Mak stole the ball, passed it to Marin Leovac, the latter picked Mystakidis in the area and he teed up Pelkas who made it 2-2 from close range.
In the last 20 minutes, PAOK went looking for a third goal but were very careful in defence as Panathinaikos attacked to regain their lead. Tudor enhanced his axis with Terry Antonis. The “Double-Headed Eagle” were rarely threatened and, despite finishing the match in numerical inferiority after Charis Charisis’s second bookable offence, they even came close to stealing the match during stoppage time with a shot by Erik Sabo.
Panathinaikos: Steele, Pranjić, Thelander, Koutroubis, Mesto, Lagos, Lod, Abeid (75’ Mamute), Vlachodimos (59’ Evangelista), Kaltsas (59’ Klonaridis), Berg.
PΑΟΚ: Vellidis, Chatziisaias, Malezas, Tzavellas, Κitsiou, Cimirot, Leovac (79’ Korovesis), Charisis, Pelkas (93’ Sabo), Mak, Mystakidis (83’ Antonis)
Referee: Giorgos Kominis
Yellow cards: Pranjić, Lagos, Koutroubis, Mamute, Berg – Cimirot, Malezas, Charisis, Pelkas, Kitsiou, Chatziisaias
Red card: Charisis