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20/06/2020 - 23:35

OFI came close to upset PAOK (video)

PAOK FC - OFI Crete 3-1

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PAOK came into this match after experiencing a below-par start to the playoffs with just one point yielded from their first two matches, and they were in desperate need of a return to winning ways in order to get their bid to grab second place back on track.

PAOK began the day two points behind AEK, while OFI arrived at in Thessaloniki on the back of a poor start of their own and after this match the Heraklion club are now in real danger of missing out on Europe.

The home side made a solid start and missed a great chance to open the scoring after just 10 minutes but Lazaros Lambrou missed the target with a header despite being left unattended by the OFI defenders.

OFI did not look overawed by the opponents however and the match was evenly balanced in the opening half-hour. The visitors also had a good chance to score in the 28th minute but Juan Neira was narrowly off-target with a direct free-kick.

PAOK then took control of the game for the final 15 minutes of the half and they were guilty of some profligacy in front of goal on two occasions before the half-time whistle.

First Omar El Kaddouri was the guilty party five minutes before the break when he somehow headed against the crossbar from barely a meter out following a left-wing cross from Lambrou.

Next it was Chuba Akpom’s turn to miss a sitter with the English forward failing to hit the target from close range with a first-time shot from El Kaddouri’s cross.

PAOK came out for the second half with a spring in their step, clearly anxious to get that first goal, but they were denied three minutes into the second 45 minutes when Leo Matos’ header from a corner was cleared by OFI defender Vitor Figueiredo.

Then a minute later disaster struck for PAOK when they fell behind to a goal from Neira.

The Argentine attacking midfielder followed up to knock home the rebound after PAOK goalkeeper Alexandros Paschalakis parried a shot from distance by Paschalis Staikos. The goal survived a VAR review, with replays showing there was no doubt.

PAOK really needed to pull a rabbit out of a huge hat at that point, with defeat certainly not an option if they wanted to avoid falling further behind in the race for a place in the Champions League qualifiers.

Ferreira threw on forwards Karol Swiderski and 18-year-old Tziolis, and thankfully for the PAOK coach the latter had an immediate impact.

Left-back Dimitris Giannoulis made the goal with a trademark lung-bursting run down the flank, his cross perfectly picking out the on-rushing Tziolis, who scored his first senior competitive goal for PAOK in impressive style to make it 1-1.

The goal had to go through a VAR review as the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside, but the replay showed the goal should count.

El Kaddouri had another chance to put PAOK in front in the 67th minute but the Morrocan’s shot was brilliantly kept out by an acrobatic save from Oscar Whalley, who was having a good night between the posts for the visitors.

Another chance went begging for the hosts with 18 minutes left when Swiderski headed goalwards from a position at the back post, only to see his on-target effort cleared off the line by Neira.

Just when it seemed like it was not going to be PAOK’s night yet again, Akpom won a penalty following a VAR review following a foul by Anestis Nastos. The Englishman took the penalty himself and tucked it away to put the home side ahead at last.

There was still time for another PAOK goal in the 10th minute of added time when Swiderski went clean through on goal. The Polish frontman was denied by Whalley, only for El Kaddouri to follow up and score from the rebound to cap a dramatic finish to the game.

STARTING LINEUPS

Paok: 31 Paschalakis (Gk), 3 Matos, 4 Ingason, 5 Varela, 23 Giannoulis, 18 Limnios, 24 Esiti, 7 El Kaddouri, 22 Lambrou, 21 Biseswar, 47 Akpom

Ofi: 1 Whalley (Gk), 6 Nastos, 8 Neira, 11 Semedo, 12 Zoao, 18 Giannoulis, 20 Figueiredo, 21 Vaz, 26 Staikos, 34 Korovesis, 47 Braun

credits: www.agonasport.com

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