The day of the lost league title
Big clubs are built through success and cemented through sorrow. PAOK of the ‘70s were a huge side, the best in Greece. Event that team however had their bad moments. A most painful one occurred on 22 April 1973, when Panachaiki denied PAOK of the league title. “Our minds were not there”, Kostas Iosifidis reminisces.
Taking something for granted can often lead to disaster. On the aftermath of their first title, PAOK were impressive in 1972-73 season. They played attractive football and were on their way to their first league title. They seemed destined to success, especially after their 2-0 win over AEK at Nea Filadelfia that kept them at the top of the standings.
On 22 April 1973, they played host to Panachaiki for matchday 28. They had 74 points and were level with Olympiacos at the top (the system back then awarded 3 points for win, 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss).
In front of 35.000 fans at Toumba, PAOK needed to win and at the same time hoped that Olympiacos would stumble at Kavala. The simultaneous matches played a trick on the minds of the “Double-Headed Eagle’s” players. “We thought we had it in the bag and our minds were at Kavala, where we hoped for Olympiacos to lose points”, Kostas Iosifidis reminisces. PAOK’s team manager adds: “We ended up paying for it. Panachaiki scored some outrageous goals and we found ourselves chasing after the score to no avail”.
PAOK relaxed on their vigilance, were unlucky on goal and that combination really hurt them. Kostas Davourlis of Panachaiki was spectacular on that day and at the same time the home side’s finishing was uncharacteristically off. The Patras outfit had six attempts on goal converting five of them, while on the other end of the pitch, PAOK had three shots denied by woodwork and wasted many opportunities to score.
Paridis missed two chances for an early goal (2’, 10’), Davourlis swiveled for the opener in the 30th minute and Fountoukidis struck the crossbar six minutes later. Paridis equalized in the 41st minutes, but PAOK’s joy would be short-lived as Davourlis put Panachaiki ahead as soon as the second half started (47’).
Another equalizer seemed near, as suggested by Paridis’ and Koudas’ strikes on woodwork (58th and 60th minute respectively), but Stravopodis made it 3-1 instead culminating a counterattack. It took just three minutes for Paridis to strike back (2-3), but more missed chances were to follow. Davourlis completed his hat-trick with a direct free kick in the 82nd minute and Pappas made it 5-2 in the 87th minute. A cross by Iosifidis was handed by Leventis and Stavros Sarafis converted the resulting spot kick to seal the final 3-5 scoreline.
Meanwhile, Olympiacos earned a 1-1 draw at Kavala and remained solitary leaders in the standings. Despite their impressive run in the final stages of that season (5 wins – 1 draw), PAOK couldn’t catch up and crossed the finishing line with 92 points, trailing Olympiacos by two.
“I will never forget that match. It’s a very painful memory as we lost a deserving league title on that day”, Kostas Iosifidis says.