PAOK players react after the Europa Conference League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between PAOK FC and Olympique Marseille at the Toumba stadium in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Thursday, April 14, 2022. Marseille won 1-0. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
THESSALONIKI – The biggest European adventure in PAOK’s history ended in a bittersweet way on Thursday night (14.04) at the Toumba Stadium. Razvan Lucescu’s team fought with all their might, pushing Marseille to their limits. However, PAOK failed to score and so bid farewell to the UEFA Europa Conference League with their head held high.
The applause and ovation that the Double-headed Eagle players got after Dutch referee Makkelie’s final whistle at the Toumba was a clear signal of how proud everyone felt about the team’s effort. PAOK were in good form, completely dominated their French opponents, and missed a host of good opportunities. But they never gave up, and kept on pushing, albeit without being able to celebrate what would have been a historic qualification.Marseille were cynical. During the entire 90 minutes all they could muster were two opportunities.
PAOK on the other hand, had 16 attempts on goal, missed some incredible opportunities, and witnessed visiting ‘keeper Mandanda make one of the best appearances of his career to give his team the coveted ticket to the semi-finals.The game started on the wrong foot before a ball was kicked. Omar El Kaddouri pulled a muscle in the warm-up and his place in the starting XI was taken by Charis Tsingaras , forcing Razvan Lucescu to adjust his plans.PAOK, however, were not discouraged. They came with a clear plan in mind and started pounding the opponent’s defense.
By the 15th minute the home side had already missed three great opportunities through Tsingaras , Crespo and Akpom .After the first quarter of the game the visitors came into it more and balanced things out. They gained control of the ball and enjoyed some long spells of possession, but they failed to threaten. In the 26th minute they were almost gifted a goal when Ingason , in an attempt to pass the ball back to Paschalakis , accidentally played the ball off his own post. Then, in the 34th minute, Marseille stole the ball after Guendouzi dispossed Crespo.
He combined well with Payet with the latter directing the ball home from close range.The goal did not discourage PAOK, who reacted immediately and came close to an equalizing goal with three more good chances. A. Zivkovic failed to convert the first chance in the 39th minute, Mandanda saved from Lyratzis on 41 minutes, and Akpom saw his shot blocked by his own player Crespo on the stroke of half-time.The pattern of the match did not change in the second half. Marseille create just one chance with a shot by Bakambu from a wide position three minutes after the restart. From there onwards, PAOK fashioned and missed a plethora of opportunities, with any kind of breakthrough not forthcoming.The highlights were Colak’s one-on-one chance, Douglas’s shot, and another effort from Mitrita . Alas, none of them could find the net.
As soon as the final whistle was blown, the Toumba congratulated the players and the technical staff in unison for their huge efforts, but also for the club’s impressive and enjoyable run in Europe this year.While Europe is out of the picture, the season still has a long way to go. PAOK now turn their attention to the Greek Championship and
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