A comeback, three points and on we go...
PAOK started their group stage campaign in the 2023-24 UEFA Europa Conference League 2023-24 with a thrilling away win, beat HJK Helsinki 3-2 in Finland to boost their confidence ahead of the next series of tough matches.
The mission was a difficult from the beginning. On an unusual aritificial playing surface, PAOK were called upon to get a result from a crucial game, on the back of two indifferent results. But when it was needed, the mentality of the team provided the solution and earned PAOK a very important victory.
PAOK began the match strongly, taking control of the possession and passing the ball around well as they tried to create opportunities to score.
However, against the run of play, it was the hosts who opened the scoring. Bande headed in from a corner, giving Helsinki the lead in the 35th minute and putting PAOK on the ropes.
However, Razvan Lucescu’s team managed to up their game in the second half, and began to create chances. They were denied by a post and then in the 55th minute they restored the balance. Koulierakis scored with an excellent header folloiwng Despodov’s corner to make it 1-1 and provide the trigger for the counter-attack.
PAOK, with confidence in their favor, played more freely, also keeping the ball well and looking for a breakthrough goal. In the 81st minute, Despodov turned from creator to executor and scored to make it 2-1 on his European debut for the club.
But the game was not over. PAOK then scored a third goal in the fourth minute of added time. Taison was the provider, making a surge forward before crossing for Brandon to make it 3-1 with a perfect finish.
There was stil time for one more goal, with Helsinki managing to reduce the deficit to one in the ninth minute of stoppage time with a penalty that was converted by Radulovic.
In the other game in the group, Eintracht Frankfurt beat Aberdeen 2-1 at home, so PAOK and the Germans are together at the top of the group with three points apiece.
Helsinki: Maenpa (Ost 13′), Toivio, Da Grassa, Raitala, Soiri, Kanellopoulos (Paanen 76′), Lingman, Hamalainen (Atom 62′), Hetemai (Tanaka 62′), Bande (Keskinen 62′), Radulovic.