PAOK return to winning ways after tough battle
After 95 exciting minutes which kept supporters on the edge of their metaphorical seats (since the match was played behind closed doors), PAOK defeated OFI 3-0 at the Toumba, chalking up a first win in five games following two draws in the league and two defeats in Europe.
Abel Ferreira’s team found the going a lot yougher than the scoreline suggests, with a highly-organised OFI playing some good football and battling manfully until the final whistle.
The Double-headed Eagle coach opted to select Antonio Colak to lead the attack, and he also gave Leo Matos a starting berth in the right wingback position as the home side began with plenty of energy and appetite.
After just three minutes, Colak was unlucky to be denied by OFI goalkeeper BoyWaterman, while a minute later Matos hit the crossbar with a header from a corner.
The early pressure finally reaped dividends in the eighth minute, with Omar El Kaddouri perfectly finishing off a great team goal by taking on Stefan Schwab’s pass and opening the scoring with an excellent finish.
From the 15th minute onwards, OFI fought back and the match became more balanced, with the visitors also able to fashion a goal threat. Zivko Zivkovic was once again a steadying presence between the posts for PAOK, but he needed a little help from the frame of the goal in the 36th minute when OFI’s Adil Nabi hit the post. That chance came two minutes after Waterman again came to the rescue for the visitors, saving an effort from Schwab, who really should have done better from a good position in the penalty area.
In the second half, OFI doubled their efforts to try and get back into the game, sensing the fatigue of the PAOK players who had clearly used up a lot of energy in the midweek game against Krasnodar. Zivkovic was the main protagonist for the hosts, pulling off several vital saves during a 30-minute spell of pressure from the Cretans.
The pendulum then seemed to swing back to PAOK’s favor with Karol Swiderski coming off the bench to end the game as a contest late on. First he made it 2-0 with a header in the 89th minute from a Schwab corner, and then in the second minute of added time the Polish forward netted with a smart finish from distance, following a poor clearance by Waterman. PAOK also hit the crossbar through Tzolis in between those two Swiderski strikes.
The result saw the Double-headed Eagle put the shock of elimination from the UEFA Champions League behind them, and pick up maximum points before the international break. In the next 15 days, Ferreira’s team must prepare diligently for some key derby battles and the first matches of the UEFA Europa League which are on the horizon.
OFI (Giorgos Simos): Waterman, Oues Rahman, Diamantis, Marinakis (73’ Liberakis), Korovesis (73’ Giannou), Mellardo (86’ Solis), Nabi, Neira, Staikos (46’ Sturgeon), Sardinero.