PAOK get the job done
When matches like Thursday’s come along where the conditions and character of the game are not those which encourage positive football, the main thing is to come away with a victory.
Three points. That’s all that matters. Even at the expense of quality and especially when you come up against opponents that focus on defense and strong challenges. PAOK did not create a plethora of scoring chances in this match, but capitalised on one and it proved enough to beat Lamia 1-0.
The first half was somewhat uneventful, with a slow tempo and very few opportunities of note from either side in front of goal. That’s logical when it was clear that Lamia set themselves up to purely defend and crowd the their final third with 11 players whose main focus was to break up play rather than to create anything.
From his side, Abel Ferreira stayed true to his philosophy and gameplan, also made changes to inject more attacking impetus with the return of Dimitris Giannoulis to left-back after a one-match suspension and Vieirinha given a more advanced role. Anderson Esiti partnered Mauricio in central midfield while Josip Misic played in a more advanced forward role behind lone striker Chuba Akpom, who was preferred ahead of top scorer Karol Swiderski .
The Dikefalos was in complete control of the match, however, Ferreira’s players struggled to get past the wall of Lamia midfielders and defenders who sat back to soak up the pressure. There were two chances of note, after 12 minutes from Vieirinha and in the 15th minute from Akpom, but both failed to find the net from good positions.
Then, on 33 minutes Vieirinha sent over a precise free-kick from the right flank and the ‘usual suspect’ Leo Matos opened the scoring by prodding the ball home with his knee. It didn’t matter if it was his head, foot or knee, what mattered is that it went in!
The pattern of the game did not change much from that point onward into the second half. Lamia were forced to come out of their shell a little, but it was still PAOK which was the team that looked mosre likely to score. A long-range shot from Mauricio on 65 minutes failed to find the net, while a couple of set-pieces from Limnios after 71 minutes also failed to deliver a second goal.
The home side could not create an threatening moments to Zivkov Zivkovic’s goal, who did not even have to make any saves apart from some rudimentary stops from speculative long-range efforts.