Away win and top of the group
PAOK gave their supporters another wonderful European night away from home by defeating Copenhagen 2-1 at the Parken Stadium, a result which meant that the Double-headed Eagle leapfrogged the Danes into first place in the group and took a step closer to qualifying for the knockout rounds.
The Double-headed Eagle have proved on many occasions that they are a team that enjoys a challenge. Especially when it comes to difficult away assignments and European games. Thursday’s big win inside the Parken Stadium is now added to a long list that keeps growing.
Razvan Lucescu’s PAOK went to Denmark in determined mood and came away with a three-point haul that puts the Thessaloniki club at the top of the group standings in thus first in the race for that top spot and direct qualification to the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa Conference League that comes with it.
The phase of play that largely decided the outcome of the game was not a goal, but a dismissal. Only nine minutes were on the clock when Mitrita found himself one-on-one with Grabara, and the Copenhagen goalkeeper tried to stop the Romanian winger’s goal attempt with his hand outside the penalty area for which he recevied a direct red card.
Biseswar then almost put PAOK in front immediately afterwards, but Johnsson – the substitute goalkeeper- made a great save to deny the Surinname midfielder’s free-kick effort.
The rest of the first half was one-way traffic, with PAOK’s dominance paying off on two ocassions.
The Double-headed Eagle took the lead in the 19th minute with a header by Sidcley after an excellent cross from Andrija Zivkovic , while the Serb then turned from creator to executioner to put PAOK 2-0 ahead in the 38th minute, taking the ball from Biseswar’s pass before producing a clinical finish from inside the right side of the penalty area.
In the second half, PAOK conceded space to the hosts and they opted to attack on the counter, but the final ball kept letting them down and there were some good chances squandered.
In the last 20 minutes of the match, the hosts went all out to try and get something from the game, which made the final stages of the match a bit of a rollercoaster ride. Biel finally got a breakthrough for the home side in the 80th minute, scoring with a powerful shot to reduce the deficit at 2-1 which gave the closing moments of the game a more dramatic character.
But in the 84th minute the class and form of Alexandros Paschalakis shone brightly. The Greece international goalkeeper saved brilliantly from Lerager’s header and kept his team in front.
PAOK kept their concentration thereafter, and after the final whistle the players celebrated a great victory that moved the club to the top of the group, one point above Copenhagen, with Slovan Bratislava hosting Lincoln at 22:00 in the other group game of Matchday 3.
Copenhagen (Jess Thorup): Grabara, Ankersen, Kotsalava, Boylesen, Dicks, Johanneson (74′ Laert), Lerager, Boldurson (46′ Singh, 84′ Hillwood), Biel, Boving (11′ Johnsson), Wind