PAOK paid for every single mistake
Football’s beauty and the reason for its worldwide appeal is its unpredictability. PAOK stepped on the pitch of Toumba to fight for a maiden qualification in the UEFA Champions League group stage. However it seems that luck was on SL Benfica’s side, repaying them for the host of chances missed in the first leg. They practically created two opportunities to score three goals and seal their “ticket” early.
The Portuguese side punished every single error of inexperience or stress that PAOK made and made it to the group stage. The “Double-Headed Eagle” continue to the UEFA Europa League with high ambition, as they won’t have to face such huge hurdles in order to prolong their European journey.
Although the Thessaloniki outfit started off on the right foot and a great combination led to Aleksandar Prijović’s goal, it all went south after the 20-minute mark of the game. The Portuguese side brought out their quality assets and, after taking the lead, they conceded space in order to exploit their counterattacking pace.
Jardel equalized with a header from a corner, Salvio made it 2-1 from the spot and Pizzi extended SL Benfica’s lead before the interval with a well-taken shot from inside the box.
The final outcome was decided with yet another spot kick of Salvio in the 48th minute. PAOK tried to impose their domination football, having more possession, recording 17 shots, one of them denied by woodwork, but will have to wait for another opportunity to fight for UEFA Champions League qualification.
The team’s ascendancy and their progress cannot stop after all. PAOK’s journey doesn’t stop here. Actually it is just starting. In the UEFA Europa League, in the domestic league, in the Greek Cup… The future is here.
SL Benfica: Vlachodimos, Grimaldo, Jardel, Rúben Dias, André Almeida, Fejsa, Gedson Fernandes, Pizzi (76’ Živković), Cervi, Seferović (85’ João Félix), Salvio (63’ Semedo)