PAOK gain advantage with formidable comeback
FC Spartak Moscow couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the game. With practically one play, they scored twice in the first quarter.
But they couldn’t know then what was coming to them. They probably thought PAOK would collapse mentally. Their preparation for the game was spot on, but there is no scouting that can analyze a team’s character.
PAOK reacted and responded with football, on the pitch. Because that is what they do. And they do it well.
Aleksandar Prijović was a killer from the spot. Léo Matos was Matos as always. Faint, timely pass to Dimitris Limnios who scored the goal he was after. 2-2 on the scoreboard.
Matos did his thing once again a bit later. New pass, to Dimitris Pelkas this time around, who made it 3-2 from close range. FC Spartak Moscow were against the ropes, eagerly waiting for the referee to signal the interval, so they could escape the siege.
There were no goals in the second half, but it was equally thrilling and left a bittersweet feeling for the home side.
In the 51st minute, Alexandros Paschalakis produced a spectacular save to deny Promes. Τheir particular duel would not stop there…
In the 61st minute, Pelkas watched as his shot went just wide. Amr Warda slalomed his way between the Russian side’s defenders, but his cross flew a bit higher than Prijović would have liked.
In the 70th minute, Quincy Promes had the opportunity to level for his side and give them the advantage for the second leg. But Paschalakis was there. He denied Spartak’s biggest star from the spot and kept PAOK’s lead intact.
The match turned physical in the last 20 minutes, with intense duels. Players fought for every inch and every loose ball, but no goals were scored.
Qualification is wide open ahead of the Moscow leg next week. PAOK have a 90-minute battle ahead of them and can keep dreaming.
FC Spartak Moscow: Maksimenko, Gigot, Promes, Fernando, Luiz Adriano (77’ Zé Luís), Bocchetti (94’ Rasskazov), Kombarov, Lomovitskiy, Yeshchenko, Zobnin, Popov (64’ Timofeyev)