Match-day 1 is in the books and the Greek clubs fared pretty well overall in both of the UEFA tournaments, Champions League and Europa League. For a brief intro to what these tournaments are, or a list of schedule dates, please see my other article by Clicking Here.
The two Greek clubs in Champions League are Olympiacos (Group A) and APOEL from Cyprus (Group F).
In their first of six group stage matches, Olympiacos defeated last year’s runner up to the tournament, Spain’s Atletico Madrid, by a score of 3-2 at home in Pireaus. Olympiacos took an early 2-0 lead before surrendering their first goal in the 38th minute. In the 73rd minute, Olympiacos’ Mitroglou found the back of the net and all but solidified the Greek club’s victory. This was a big win for the champions of Greece as it shows that they can keep up with the big boys in this tournament. In their next match, Olympiacos hits the road to take on Sweden’s Malmo. In their first match, Malmo lost to Italian side Juventus by a score of 0-2.
APOEL took on the juggernaut Barcelona and lost by a score of 0-1 in Spain. Barcelona is loaded with talent, including two of the top players in the world, Lionel Messi and Neymar. The only goal of the match came in the 28th minute via header from Barcelona’s Pique. APOEL’s chances to score were scarce, only having taken 3 shots compared to Barcelona’s 11. However, taking on a powerhouse like Barcelona and only losing 0-1, APOEL should be commended. In their next match, APOEL comes home to Cyprus to take on the Dutch club AJAX. In their first match, AJAX tied 1-1 with French side Paris Saint Germain.
The four Greek clubs in Europa League are Apollon (Group A), Asteras Tripoli (Group C), Panathinaikos (Group E) and PAOK (Group K).
Cyprus’ Apollon took on Swiss club FC Zurich at home for their first match. Apollon jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half, but yielded two quick goals in the 50th and 53rd minute of the second half. Coming down to the wire in the 87th minute, Zurich defender Koch deflected a crossed ball into his own net and gifted the win to Apollon. In their next match, Apollon travels to Spain to take on Villareal who ended their first match in a 1-1 draw with German side Borussian Monchengladbach. A road win or tie will be huge for Apollon.
In their first ever group stage match in a major European tournament, the small club with a big heart, Asteras Tripoli, travelled to Istanbul to take on Turkish side Besiktas. Besiktas was the first to score in the 33rd minute with a goal from Gokhan Tore, and the Turkish club seemed to control the pace for most of the game. In dramatic fashion though, Asteras scored in the 88th minute with a volley from Parra, which all but secured the tie for the Greek club. Although the match ended in a draw, this is a huge moral victory for Asteras because they don’t typically play well on the road. Asteras’ next match is at home in Tripoli against Serbia’s Partizan. Partizan’s first match with English side Tottenham ended in a 0-0 draw, which shows this will be a tough match for the Arcadians, but winnable nonetheless. Asteras is by far the underdog in this group, but they weren’t expected to eliminate Mainz or Maccabi Tel Aviv in the qualification rounds either.
To me, the only real disappointment amongst the Greek clubs on match-day 1 was Panathinaikos. They lost to Russian side Dynamo Moscow at home in Athens by a score of 1-2. Dynamo jumped out to a 2-0 lead by half time which set the pace for he remainder of the game. Thanasis Dinas was able to cut the lead in half in the 63rd minute for the Greek club, but Panathinaikos was unable to capitalize on any of their final three attempts following that goal. Panathinaikos will travel to Portugal to take on Estoril Praia in their next match, who lost to Dutch side PSV Eindhoven 0-1 in their previous match. Panathinaikos cannot afford to lose this match because they risk digging themselves into a deep hole within their group. It will be a tough match to win, but let’s hope they can walk away from this match with at least a tie.
On match-day 1, PAOK took on Belarusian side Dinamo Minsk at home in Thessaloniki and annihilated them by a score of 6-1. It was trouble from the very beginning for Dinamo; in only the 3rd minute, midfielder Nikolic headed the ball into his own net to begin the clubs downward spiral. That’s when the Greek captain, Stefanos Athanasiadis, went to work; he put on a show and scored a goal in the 11th, 16th and 28th minute of the match, claiming the third fastest hat trick in Europa League history. Again, why wasn’t he included on Greece’s World Cup roster? Needless to say, it was a smooth sailing to the 90th minute for PAOK after that. To add insult to injury, Dinamo ended the game with only 10 players because one of their midfielders earned their second yellow card of the game in the 63rd minute which meant he had to leave the pitch. On match-day 2, PAOK will travel to France to take on Guingamp, and Guingamp lost their first match to Italy’s Fiorentina by a score of 0-3. Hopefully PAOK can walk away from this match with another win.
Match-Day 2 Schedule
Olympiacos at Malmo – Wednesday, October 1 at 3:45 PM EST
APOEL v AJAX – Tuesday, September 30 at 3:45 EST
Apollon at Villareal – Thursday, October 2 at 4:05 PM EST
Asteras Tripoli v Partizan – Thursday, October 2 at 4:05 PM EST
Panathinaikos at Estoril – Thursday, October 2 at 4:05 PM EST
PAOK at Guingamp – Thursday, October 2 at 4:05 PM EST
There you have it, your Greek club everyone! I will begin to keep track of the standings table for each club after the next match-day. And like always, you will be able to watch the games for free online at ESPN3.com or on the Watch ESPN app.