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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 30 March 2019
SPORT 26 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 30 MARCH 2019 Greek Super League entering final phase With five games remaining until the end of the season, the table has started to take shape as clubs make a last ditch effort to end the season on a high note DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM PAOK seem to be keen on concluding their season while maintaining their unbeaten run intact. PHOTO: APE/MPE Greece enter a new age under Angelos Anastasiadis. The draw in Zenica is a clear indication of that. PHOTO: AAP VIA AP/DARKO BANDIC The championship in Greece has only a few turns to go and and the teams are now pretty much aware of their fate for the upcoming season. In Thessaloniki, fans are getting ready to open up celebratory champagnes for the first time in over 30 years, yet Razvan Lucescu keeps his players focused on their next match against Xanthi at "Pigadia". The Romanian knows full well that loss of concentration even at this point of the game could cost his team everything they've worked so hard the entire season to accomplish. The most interesting game of the day however, will take place at the "Georgios Karaiskakis", where second placed Olympiacos will host the surprise of the season, Atromitos, who will make a last attempt to grab third place. The team from Peristeri will have their work cut out for them though, as not only will they need to take the three points away from one of the most difficult venues in all the country, but also they will be hoping that champions AEK drop points in their respective game against Panetolikos at the Olympic Stadium. Something that seems rather unlikely however, as Manolo Jimenez seems to have instilled that winning mentality that managed to guide the team to winning the league back in the previous season. Aris should also be feeling confident with their return to the top level of football in Greece, as they seem to be breathing distance from a position that leads to the European competitions. However they will need to get beyond the obstacle of Cretan team OFI if they are to remain on course towards the Europa League. The main interest now di- verts to the relegation zone, where Apollon seems to already have taken up the one spot and another seven teams fighting to stay in the division. Panionios and Xanthi seem highly unlikely candidates, as they have amassed a sufficient number of points to maintain themselves a safe distance away from the danger zone (29), while something similar could also be said about Asteras Tripolis and AEL, who each have 27 points respectively. Giannena are a hair's breath away from the positions that lead to the second division, with OFI and Levadiakos currently occupying them and trying to escape that fate. DAY 26 SCHEDULE Saturday 30 March Levadiakos - Giannena Lamia - Panionios AEL - Asteras Tripolis Sunday 31 March Aris - OFI AEK - Panetolikos Xanthi - PAOK Olympiacos - Atromitos Monday 1 April Apollon Smyrnis - Panathinaikos Greece off to a good start in Euro 2020 bid The blue and white national team claimed a hard-fought draw in Zenica against Bosnia Angelos Anastasiadis is off to a good start on the bench of the Greek national team. The "galanolefki" began their efforts to reach the final round of the EURO 2020 with a comfortable 0-2 win against Liechtenstein on Saturday and an even more impressive 2-2 draw in Bosnia on Wednesday night. These results have put Greece in the driver's seat when it comes to the second place of the group, as their main opponents are the Bosnians and this draw gives them a slight advantage. However, no one could have imagined that the game would have progressed in the way that it did after the opening fifteen minutes, as the Balkan team took the lead with Edin Visca just on the tenth minute mark, after the Greek defence wasn't properly able to clear a corner kick from the home side. And as if that wasn't enough, the Bosnians added a second goal five minutes later when Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic blasted a free kick in the back of Odysseas Vlachodimos' net as the Benfica goalkeeper was left defenceless, with only Carlos Zeca going up for the wall. After the initial shock how- ever, Greece seemed to gain more ground on the pitch and began to step into the opposition territory with more consistency, yet the Bosnian threat was always a prominent one. During half time, Anastasiadis recognised that he may have started the game a little too cautiously with four defensive midfielders (Zeca, Samaris, Mpouchalakis, Kourbelis) and replaced the uninspired Andreas Mpouchalakis for a more attacking-minded Giorgos Masouras, changing the formation to a 4-4-2 that began asking more questions of the Bosnian defence. And with Greece creating more chances up front, it was only a matter of time until they made something of it. That moment came on the 63rd minute, when a through ball by Andreas Samaris found the feet of Tasos Donis who immediately gave the ball to an oncoming Kostas Fortounis. The Olympiacos midfielder was tripped inside the area by Toni Sunjic, with the referee pointing to the spot. Fortounis had no problem against Ibrahim Sehic, giving Greece a thread of hope. And that thread became much larger a couple of minutes later, when a clumsy challenge by the arguably best Bosnian player on the pitch, Pjanic, on Zeca saw the referee send him off for an early shower. Now the roles had reversed with Greece being the ones with all the possession and the chances and all they needed was a single goal. Anastasiadis almost immediately made another change in order to further aid his player's efforts, bringing off Dimitris Kourbelis for Dimitris Kolovos, as the Greeks no longer needed to hold back. The "white-and-blue" began to wear down their op- ponents and it seemed it was only a matter of time until that crucial equaliser arrived. And it was right on schedule, as it was the 85th when a patient build-up found Zeca unmarked on the right side. He made the cross that found the head of golden substitute Kolovos, who scored his first ever goal with the national team and gave Greece what could be an important point as they continue their effort to reach the finals of the EURO 2020. The next challenge for the "galanolefki" however, will be an even greater one, as they will need to take on Italy next June. The Italians have already asserted themselves as the dominant force in group J, having two wins from two matches and not conceding any goals. They defeated Finland 2-0 at the Friuli last Saturday, then moved on to annihilate Liechtenstein 6-0 at the Ennio Tardini on Wednesday.
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