Bitterness for the defeat, nothing but pride for PAOK’s young aces [with pictures]
Values and ethics, especially when it comes to youth football, are non-negotiable. This is something we stand by, as well as the joy of what we experienced in an enthralling final, and in the confidence that this generation of the PAOK Academy also has great prospects. Having said that, we obviously still cannot hide the bitter feeling for the way the Under-15 team lost the 2021-22 Super League championship.
Penalty shootouts are clearly a nerve-wracking process, especially when it comes to youth players. And when a match ends up going to penalties in such a soul-destroying way – since without a doubt the penalty from which Olympiacos scored their equalizing goal was non-existent – it is even harder to take. And that’s all we will say about that. After all, it is not worth it, mainly because of the effort put in from all of the youth players involved, and also because it was one of the most exciting finals we have ever seen in this age category.
PAOK were defeated 5-4 on penalties by Olympiacos. The Double-headed Eagle fell behind in the 12th minute, equalized in the 52nd minute, made it 2-1 in the second minute of added time, before literally in the last second of the game went from absolute ecstacy to agony when the referee awarded a penalty in favor of Olympiacos.
In terms of the match overall, PAOK found it difficult to combat the early nerves at the start and struggled to gain control of the game. There were many one-on-one duels, misplaced passes, and mistakes, and unfortunately most of these were made by PAOK. And from one such a mistake at the back was where the first Olympiacos goal came from which separated the two teams at half-time. In general, however, Olympiacos did not create any clear scoring opportunities in the first 40 minutes.
The second half was a completely different proposition. PAOK started strongly, looked more confidetn and enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. The players found their passing rhythmn, and they did not have to wait too long for their equalizer. In the 51st minute, Tsitsilas crossed from the right, and the ball struck the hand of an Olympiacos defender and so a penalty was awarded correctly. Tsiotas converted the spot-kick to make it 1-1.
A cluth of good scoring chances followed, starting after 55 minutes thorugh Panos, then on 67 minutes via Eleftheriadis, in the 69th minute through Panos again, but a goal would not come. PAOK did not give up tryign, however, and their momentum brought them what they thought would be a winning goal in the second minute of added time when Tsitsilas crossed from the right flank for Karakostas, and he scored with a clinical finish to spark jubilant celebrations. It was a case of so close yet so far, however, as just one minute later, Olympiacos were awarded a penalty, and equalized.
To a penalty shootout it was, then. Beleris saved the fifth Olympiacos penalty, but then both Karakostas and Drigakis failed to convert theirs and it was all over. We continue, however, with faith, dedication, consistency and ethos.
PAOK: Beleris, Tsiotas, Vyrsokinos, Kosidis, Mythos (76′ Drigakis), Eleftheriadis, Tsitsilas (83′ Romanidis), Panos, Theofilou (41′ Sidiropoulos), Toursounidis (73′ Karakostas), Dunga.