Second place all but wrapped up
In what was a tough tackling and tactical battle laden with errors, PAOK were the team with the most composure at the Toumba, scoring two goals and virtually sealing second place at the expense of Aris, who will now be involved in a dogfight for the other European places.
From his side, Aris boss Akis Mantzios decided to copy PAOK’s formation in an effort to stop an in-form Double-headed Eagle side.
PAOK took control of the possession from the early stages, reaching up to 70% at one point, while not allowing Aris to get close to the penalty area of Paschalakis. From their side, the visitors could only muster a tame shot from Gama, which was easily blocked by the PAOK goalkeeper.
The Double-headed Eagle had some good moments as well, with Warda felled in the box by Cuesta in the 22nd minute, but both the referee and the VAR review did not see any foul play, while Schwab , Vieirinha and Andrija Zivkovic all threatened with shots, but Cuesta was equal to them on all three ocassions.
Generally the match had an air of anger and frustration about it, with both teams making mistakes, and the first half ended goalless.
In the second half the pattern of the game did not change. PAOK once more enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, with Aris limited to a passive role and chances at both ends were at a premium up until the 67th minute.
That is when Krmencik, who came off the bench to cause the visiting defenders some headaches, collected possession and surged into the penalty area. Sasha stuck his foot in and sent the Czech tumbling, and after a VAR review a penalty was awarded. Schwab stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards to give the home side the lead.
After the goal the match opened up a bit more, with Aris threatening in the 80th minute through Bertoglio but Paschalakis was on hand to deny him, while at the other end in the same minute Krmencik attenmpted a side-footed shot from a tigh angle, but Cuesta made a fine save to thrwart the PAOK man with his foot.
In the first minute of added time, A.Zivkovic was on hand to write the epilogue of the game. The Serbian winger collectred an excellent pass from Enea Mihaj , who returned to action after a long period out injured, to score and make it 2-0.
Tghe result means that PAOK now have a five-point lead over Aris with two games to go, and so they need just one more point from those matches to secure second place officially.
Aris: Cuesta, Ioannou (74’ Bruno), Benalounbe, Rose, Ganea, Matilla (83’ Mitroglou), Sasha, Sundgren (73’ Bertoglio), Gama, Silva (56’ Manos), Garcia (57’ Mancini).