Two points thrown away
Another crazy match – in what is turning out to be a very tough and strange season – in which whatever our opponents did came off, while everything PAOK tried looked destined to fail. Saturday’s game at the Yedi Kule was one of those matches that go down as a “rollercoaster”.
Take your pick. From the two dismissals, or Giannis Michailidis’ putting the tears at the end of the AEK game behind him with a stunning goal, or the «buzzer beater» save from Alexandros Paschalakis, who also almost scored at the other end. The match was a 90-minute rollercoaster ride which at the end of the day has put a dent in PAOK’s hopes of finishing second.
PAOK paid for the team’s lack of stability at the Theodoros Vardinogiannis and threw away two precious points in Crete on Matchday 6 of the Super League Play Offs.
The visitors started strongly, lost their way, reacted well in the second half, but ultimately did not manage to claim the win and the three points. A lack of consistency from the Dikefalos tou Vorra meant that the club missed out on an opportunity to get a vital win at the Yedi Kule.
Abel Ferreria decided to change the system to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Mauricio and Omar El Kaddouri in the middle, and Diego Biseswar in front of them, while he gave starting berths on the flanks to Dimitris Limnios and Rodrigo – in place of Leo Matos and Christos Tziolis. It was a plan which looked perfect in the early stages.
The Dikefalos tou Vorra made an ideal start. Rodrigo sent Limnios scampering down the right after five minutes. The Greece international sprinted past Kostas Giannoulis and crossed the ball for Biseswar who scored with a clinical finish to make it 1-0.
With that, PAOK had managed to achieve something that it has searched for in other games and not managed, but oddly enough the team struggled to manage things from then. OFI fought back and missed two decent chances, the first from Giorgos Koutroubis, whose header was saved by Paschalakis, and secondly a shot from Juan Neira which hit the post. The home side soon found an equalizer though after 18 minutes when Neira fired in a shot from the edge of the penalty area.
The hosts were then on the backfoot as the Dikefalos tou Vorra came forward, but El Kaddouri and Ferando Varela missed half-chances. Then it was OFI’s turn to attack in the 43rd minute and Vitor Figueiredo finished off a fine counter-attack to make it 2-1 to the home side.
Oscar Whalley pulled off two good saves from Limnios in added time at the end of the first half, and PAOK had to regroup for the second half.
PAOK looked full of urgency at the start of the second half as they looked to fight back, and Dimitris Giannoulis somehow missed an excellent chance in the 51st minute, while Varela had also earlier headed wide from a good position.
In the 59th minute Koutroubis was booked for a second time for a foul on Mauricio and was sent off. This saw PAOK camped in the Cretans half as the visitors went frantically searching for goals.
Christos Tziolis, with a couple of chances, Anderson Esiti and Chuba Akpom all wasted decent opportunities to score, but then Michailidis found the answer in the 76th minute, scoring with an incredible free-kick to level the match for Abel Ferreira’s team – his first goal for the first team.
Esiti was red-carded in the 81st minute after picking up a second yellow card, and the numbers were equal once again, with the game really becoming hard to predict. PAOK continued to threaten the home goal with Akpom again off target, while Mauricio was also unlucky not to score. Then, in the 97th minute, OFI almost stole the points but Paschalakis produced perhaps the save of the season to deny Dimitris Manos to preserve the 2-2 scoreline. Indeed, the PAOK ‘keeper also went close to becoming a hero at the other end as he went forward for the last phase of play but his header was wayward and teh chance was gone.
OFI Crete (Giorgos Simos): Whalley, Braun, Marinakis (90′ Nastos), Koutroubis, Giannoulis K, Korovesis, Mellardo, Staikos (77′ Sakor), Neira, Vaz (59′ Joao Victor), Figueiredo (89′ Manos).
PAOK ( Abel Ferreira ): Paschalakis , Rodrigo (46′ Michailidis), Varela , Ingason , Giannoulis D, Mauricio, El Kaddouri (46′ Esiti ), Limnios (63′ Akpom ), Biseswar (63′ Matos ), Stoch (61′ Tziolis), Swiderski .