Return to action with three points
Returning to competitive action after a long period of abstinence always has potential pitfalls. PAOK, however, were determined to avoid any slip-ups and produced a professional performance to officially kick off 2022 with a 2-0 victory over Panetolikos at the Toumba stadium in a re-arranged Matchday 16 clash.
Twenty-four days. That’s how long it has been since the last time PAOK stepped on the pitch for a competitive match. The lack of rhythm was the number one opponent of Razvan Lucescu’s team, but the players managed to overcome that, as well as a battling Panetolikos side to start the upcoming marathon of consecutive games in January and February with a victory.
The Double-headed Eagle began the game strongly from the kikc-off and lost a great opportunity to open the score as early as the ninth minute. Swiderski pushed high up the pitch and stole possession from Melissas, who fouled the Pole inside the penalty area. Kurtic took the spot-kick but saw his effort saved by the visiting goalkeeper.
Undaunted by that missed chance, PAOK continued with their collective foot on the gas and tried to break the deadlock. The solution was provided in the 28th minute when Duarte handled the ball in the penalty area and the home side were awarded another penalty after a VAR review. This time Kurtic did not fail, with the Slovenian top scorer putting PAOK in the driving seat.
PAOK contrived to miss more great opportunities to increase their lead with Melissas saving from Mitrita, Douglas and Swiderski, but on the other hand the visitors did not threaten the home goal and the score remained 1-0 at half-time.
The opposition from Agrinio tried to surprise PAOK with the strong start in the second half, and in the 52nd minute Vergos hit the woodwork, but then PAOK responded immediately to threaten through Murg and Swiderski, but ultimately neither player could find a way past Melissas.
In the 74th minute, Flores cleared Kurtic’s header off the line, and with PAOK failing to lock up the game with another goal at that point, Panetolikos grw in confidence and looked for an equalizing goal. PAOK defended well, however, and kep the visitors attacking threat to a minumum, before finally locking up the points with a late goal.
The goal came in the second minute of added time, with the returning Leo Jaba, who was back at the club after a one-and-a-half year absence, applying a cool finish to make it 2-0.
Everyone’s attention is now focused on the match against OFI at the Toumba on Saturday (15.01, 19:30) for Matchday 18.
PAOK: Paschalakis, Lyratzis, Ingason, Michailidis, Rodrigo (62′ Vieirinha), Kurtic, Tsingaras (70′ Schwab), Augusto, Murg (70′ Jaba), Mitrita (77′ Sidcley), Swiderski (77′ Colak)
Panetolikos: Melissas, Louis, Vrgoc, Malis, Cornelius, Flores, A. Tsingaras (85′ Belevonis), Barbosa (85′ Morsey), Duarte (75′ Karelis), Mendoza (75′ Martenson), Vergos.