A dream evening in Switzerland
After their 2-1 win in Toumba last week, PAOK could seal their qualification to the following round even with a draw. But, as Răzvan Lucescu said on the eve of the St.Jakob Park tie, the “Double-Headed Eagle” always play to win and that is exactly what they did on Wednesday.
Against an experienced and high-quality opponent, PAOK were flawless, didn’t run any risks throughout the encounter and recorded an emphatic 3-0 victory, keeping their dream of a maiden UEFA Champions League group stage participation alive.
Bad news before kick-off, ideal start
Their pre-game was far from ideal though. PAOK skipper Adelino Vieirinha complained of pains in the left hip tendon during warm-up and was sidelined.
Lucescu opted to field José Ángel Crespo in the left side of defence and gave Yevhen Khacheridi his PAOK debut at centre-back.
Despite losing their skipper, the “Double-Headed Eagle” players stormed into the encounter and got the lead with their first opportunity.
In the 7th minute, Dimitris Pelkas took the corner kick and Fernando Varela scored with a close-range shot.
Harmless possession for FC Basel
After their goal, PAOK conceded possession to the home side, while closing up all spaces leading to Alexandros Paschalakis’s area and opting for a counterattacking game.
FC Basel wasted their biggest chance to level the match in the 14th minute, when Paschalakis denied Ajeti.
In the last stretch of the first half, PAOK came close to doubling their lead when Aleksandar Prijović and Omar El Kaddouri failed to capitalize on Léo Matos’s pass. Maurício also saw his shot go just wide from Dimitris Limnios’s cross.
Magic quarter seals qualification
PAOK started into the second half with all systems go and went for the kill. They achieved it in impressive fashion.
In the 52nd minute, Alexandros Paschalakis provided his first assist (!) as PAOK player. His volleyed shot landed at the feet of Prijović who lobbed Omlin for the second goal of the Thessaloniki side.
Eight minutes later, the “Double-Headed Eagle” took advantage of their opponents’ low morale and finished off the encounter. Pelkas slalomed his way on the edge of the area looking for an opening, but lacking space he teed up El Kaddouri who fired past Omlin for the third goal.
Just a technicality of 30 minutes
The last 30 minutes of the encounter were just a technicality. The scoreline remained unchanged despite numerous plays in front of both goals.
Limnios wasted the opportunity for a fourth goal in the 64th minute, while Zuffi was denied by Paschalakis in the 73rd minute. The Greek goalkeeper produced the best save of the encounter ten minutes later.
Party after the final whistle
After the final whistle, the whole delegation of PAOK along with their impressive fans celebrated a huge victory and qualification to the next round.
The “Double-Headed Eagle” are continuing their journey in search of their first ever group stage participation in the UEFA Champions League. Now they focus on their next opponent, FC Spartak Moscow who visit Toumba next week. The second leg will be held in Russia on 14 August.
FC Basel: Omlin, Cümart, Widmer, Suchý, Balanta, Zuffi, Dié, Stocker (46’ Campo), Kalulu, Bua, Ajeti (72’ Van Wolfswinkel)