Everything to play for at the Toumba
Two defensive lapses were enough to cost PAOK as the Double-headed Eagle went down to a 2-1 defeat in Russia in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Play Offs tie. The final scoreline means that the tie remains delicately balanced, and everything will be decided next Wednesday (30.09, 22:00) at the Toumba.
As it was anticipated, the two teams produced tough and determined performances over the 90 minutes. Krasnodar and PAOK battled fiercely, and it was Russians who left the pitch with smiles, although their advantage is a slender one ahead of the second leg.
Abel Ferreira’s PAOK, featuring a three-pronged strike force of Α.Zivkovic, Pelkas and Tziolis, began brightly and missed a golden chance in the seventh minute to go in front when Pelkas fired a penalty straight at Safonov, who rescued his team with a solid save. The penalty had been awarded after Schwab’s, shot was blocked by Kaio’s hand.
Krasnodar stepped up its rythmn and created some good chances, with PAOK allowing the hosts space while trying to catch them on the counter-attack. And on 32 miutes, that plan worked a treat.
Αndrija Ζίβκοβιτς produced a great run down the left, squaring the ball across goal for Pelkas, who met the ball perfectly to flick a superb finish into the bottom corner past Safonov to open the scoring.
PAOK’s joy last just seven minutes, however. Giannoulis was adjudged to have fouled Cabella in the penalty area and the referee pointed to the spot. Claesson stepped up to loft the ball over Zivko Zivkovic and level matters at 1-1.
In the second half, the pattern of the game did not change much, with both teams trying their best to play attractive football and create goalscoring opportunities.
The result was decided in the space of two minutes. On 68 minutes Giannoulis crossed for the on-rushing El Kaddouri , and the Moroccan directed a first-time shot goalwards, only to see his effort agonisingly come back of the post. Then in the 70th minute Krasnodar got themselves in front when Cabella tapped home from close range to score what proved to be the winning goal.
The two teams reconvene for the second leg next Wednesday (30.09, 22:00) at the Toumba Stadium, in a match which will decide which of the two sides will progress to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.
Krasnodar (Musaev): Safonov, S. Petrov, Kaio, Sorokin, Ramierez, Cabella (81’ Utkin), Olsson, Vilhena, Wanderson (86’ Suleymanov), Berg, Claesson.