The run-in to the regular season was not the club’s finest hour. The desired results did not come, and it was obvious to all that the poor results left some open wounds. PAOK went in search of finding the right reaction in order to make up for their mistakes, and to start the Play Offs in positive mood so that the club could get back on track.
The derby against ΑΕΚ at the Toumba offered the ideal opportunity to do just that, and the Double-headed Eagle took full advantage of it.
The coaching team had to deal with the absence of talisman Andre Vieirinha, who did not manage to overcome his injury problems. Paschalakis got the nod between the posts, and Brazilian pair Rodrigo and Douglas were also drafted into the starting XI, meaning that there were three new faces compared to the defeat to Panathinaikos at Leoforos, in place of Zivkovic , Vieirinha και Warda.
The start to the game was a dream one for PAOK. The Double-headed Eagle went in front with just three minutes on the clock thanks to Andrija Zivkovic , who latched on to Ingason’s headed pass to score with a slick finish from a narrow angle.
The goal gave the home players the necessary boost of confidence and calmness, as PAOK went about their work in the first half flawlessly, with the exception of the final few moments.
Before we come to that, however, the Double-headed Eagle did score another goal with Karol Swiderski netting from close range from an El Kaddouri cross, only for the goal to be chalked off for a handball by the Moroccan following a VAR review.
Then, in the final moments of the first half, ΑΕΚ found a route to goal with their first real chance of the game. Petros Mandalos was the architecht, sending Nelson Oliveira clean through against the home goalkeeper, and the visiting forward slotted home from inside the penalty area to make it 1-1.
As bad as the end to the second half was for PAOK, the start of the second half was just as good. PAOK needed just 17 seconds after the interval to restore their advantage.
Swiderski was in the right place in the right time inside the penalty area to convert a brilliant assist from Tzolis with a measured, side-footed effort to make it 2-1.
From then on PAOK dropped the tempo of the game and ΑΕΚ tried to push forward and take advantage of the spaces. But despite enjoying long spells of possession in and around the home side’s penalty box, the Union could not find a route to goal and make chances, with Paschalakis only called upon on a couple of ocassions to deny a shot from Ansarifard in the 50th minute and a Shakhov effort in the second minute of added time.
From their side, PAOK missed several good chances to add to their lead to lock up the match, with Tzolis and Krmencik guilty of profligacy. But the third goal finally came in the 89th minute when A.Zivkovic grabbed his second of the night to make it 3-1 following Krmencik’s assist.
AEK: Athanasiadis, Lopes, Laci, Svarnas, Bakakis (81’ Danchenko), Szymanski (58’ Shakhov), Krsticic (81’ Kosidis), Mandalos, Oliveira, Garcia, Ansarifard (68’ Almpanis).