Alone against everyone
There are certain points and signs that show you are coming of age. Even through a bad result. Or even through an elimination. PAOK went to the Netherlands to play and try to qualify. And the team did just that.
The team forced the Dutch double winners to be fearful, to sweat, to be anxious, and seek every kind of help possible – fair and unfair – to get the qualification to the next round.
At least now VAR has arrived in the Premier League. Unfortunately not yet in the Champions League qualifiers. And so, a big surprise (?) was avoided.
Ajax needed two penalties, and Nicolás Tagliafico’s header from a corner which should never have been awarded, in order to overturn Diego Biseswar’s fabulous opening goal to get their ticket to the UEFA Champions League playoffs.
The mission was a tough one from the start. But the Double-headed Eagle showed no fear, at any time. For 180 highly-competitive minutes, PAOK went toe-to-toe with the team that played in the semi-finals of the competition just a few months ago. Unfortunately, in the end PAOK fell to the Dutch – and the English – and the dream of reaching the group stages faded.
Even when the score was 3-1, PAOK did not give up, and reduced the arrears in the final moments through Biseswar again. There was no way that the Johan Cruyff Arena, however, could stomach another elimination at the 94th-minute mark – for those who didn’t already work that out from the 93 minutes which came before it.
History will show that Ajax needed a helping hand from an Englishman to get a very tense and nervous qualification to the Champions League playoffs, and that PAOK has grown up a lot. It’s a given that we will see this even more in the season ahead, a season which has just begun.
Ajax (Eric Tenn Hag): Onana, Veltman, Van de Beek (89 ‘De Witt), Neres (78’ Huntelaar), Tadic, Mazraoui, Blind, Marin (46 ‘West), Martinez, Ziyech, Tagliafico.