THESSALONIKI - In a match with unbelievable ups and downs that was basically decided in the second half of extra time, PAOK beat Panionios 4-2 at Toumba Stadium in Thessaloniki to advance to the semifinals of the Greek Cup.
The Nea Smyrna side, after a heroic effort and losing the berth to the semifinals after winning the first leg at home (2-1), were in pole position to advance to the next round as late as the 114' minute when the score was tied up at 2-2. Suddenly, everything was turned on its head as PAOK scored twice in two minutes leaving Panionios completely shell-shocked.
The penalty that secured PAOK's advance to the semifinals came in the 118' in controversial circumstances because from video replays the ball seemed to hit the body and then the arm of Panionios winger Giorgos Manthatis.
As for PAOK, the home side squandered many chances, but the team deserves respect for the way that, even when the odds were stacked firmly against them, they did not give up on the dream to secure their passage to the semifinals in front of their home fans.
PAOK started the game nervously and that was not helped by the fact that in the '14 they lost attacking midfielder Dimitris Pelkas to a rib injury after a tough tackle from Panionios defender Dimitris Stavropoulos. Pelkas was substituted for Diego Biseswar.
Finally, "Dikefalos tou Vorra" opened up the scoring in the 32' after a throw-in by Oliveira to Limnios who took a shot on net, Kotnik blocked the shot and substitute Biseswar was there to pounce on the rebound to create PAOK's 1-0 advantage.
The Nea Smyrna side responded immediately as one minute later in the 33' the match was level again. After confusion on a clearance spread throughout the PAOK defense, Panionios captain Christos Korbos took the loose ball, shot it where it took many deflections and ended up at the feet of Durmishaj who redirected the ball past Paschalakis for the 1-1 score. PAOK tried to reply immediately in kind, but Shakhov's header in the 45' went wide.
The second half started as one seemingly endless PAOK-dominated attacking possession since Panionios decided to set all their men back to play defensively since the scoreline was in their favor to advance. PAOK manager Razvan Lucescu put on a second striker onto the field and his Panionios counterpart, Akis Mantzios, reacted by putting on a third stopper, Banana Yaya.
PAOK's chances started to come in waves with Enrique's shot in the 61' with Kotnik parrying it away and again in the 73' Panionios' goalkeeper stopped Shakhov's close-range effort. in the 79' PAOK was close to scoring but an Akpom header from a Vieirinha cross went just wide.
However in the 82', PAOK got to the 2-1 score they were chasing with Swiderski nodding in a close-range header from a Giannoulis corner.
Panionios could have "frozen" Toumba Stadium and clinched their berth to the semifinals right at the death in the '88 when Tsiloulis got behind PAOK's defense and tried to square a shot from close against Paschalakis but PAOK's goalkeeper saved the shot and the match with a purely reflexive save with his leg. Following that chance, both teams buckled down and the match headed to extra-time.
What Tsiloulis was not able to do, Oumar Camara was able to in the fourth minute of extra time when on a Panionios counterattack, he shot the ball right through the legs of Paschalakis to tie the game 2-2.
Camara's goal, completely shifted the momentum that PAOK had been enjoying to Panionios' side. In the 112' minute Matos hit the post with a header and two minutes later Akpom took a Vieirinha cross and, from close, to the net scored making it 3-2 for PAOK.
In the 118' Manolis Skoulas whistled a penalty for handball committed by Giorgos Manthatis of Panionios when on a shoot by Misic the shot hit his body and then his arm. Replays did not support the referee's decision but regardless,Vieirinha stepped up to the penalty spot and thumped home a powerful shot to make the score 4-2. Manthatis was dismissed on the play as well having received his second yellow card.
Panionios' players were livid by the referee's decision to award the penalty and refused to resume play from center midfield even after Korbos tried to get his teammates to continue. Fiorin Durmishaj even ironically applauded the referee.
This resulted in Panionios to not kick the ball off from center to resume play and the two minutes that remained of the second half of extra time were never played. Referee Manolis Skoulas saw that the situation got out of hand and blew his whistle to end the match that secured PAOK's advance to the semifinals of the Greek Cup.
PAOK: Paschalakis, Giannoulis, Vieirinha, Crespo, Ingason, Shakhov ('73 Matos), Oliveira, Limnios (56' Akpom), Pelkas (14' Biseswar), Enrique (97' Misic), Swiderski
Panionios: Kotnik, Stavropoulos, Domingues, Papageorgiou (78'Arce), Kocic, Korbos, Maniatis, Manthatis, Boumal (60' Banana), Tsiloulis (90' Camara), Durmishaj