NICOSIA — Despite PAOK’s overall decent showing in the competition, the Double-headed Eagle is out of Europe exactly because it could not win matches it had under its control, or because it lost matches which it had under its control. The same thing happened at the Toumba against Omonia, in Granada, and once more at the GSP Stadium tonight.
Elimination came in Nicosia, thanks to a 2-1 loss to Omonia. PAOK conceded a goal early on and that gave the home side the confidence that they needed as well as put them in a position to park the bus and leave the visitors with the anxiety of having to turn the game around.
Omonia sat back and looked only to break on the counter-attack, managed to handle PAOK’s dominance of the game and pressure on their goal, and near the end of the game… pounced to complete a smash and grab victory – the club’s first-ever in the group stages of the Europa League.
A return of just one point from the two matches with Omonia means that PAOK do not have anything to play for now – apart from pride – in the final game at the Toumba.
The coaching staff set PAOK up with Zivkovic in goal, with a back four of Varela and Crespo in the center, and Rodrigo on the left and Wague on the right. The three-man midfield was made up of Tsiggaras, Schwab and El Kaddouri, while the chosen three in attack were A. Zivkovic, Tziolis, and Swiderski .
PAOK did not start the match well with the necessary urgency, and the Cypriots managed to spring a complete surprise with Kakoullis opening the scoring in the ninth minute from the rebound after Zivkovic had parried a shot.
The Double-headed Eagle tried to respond quickly and began to threaten Fabiano’s goal. A. Zivkovic and Rodrigo tried their luck without success, while Crespo hit the crossbar in the 34th minute with a header. After 39 minutes, PAOK won possession and Tzolis scored to make it 1-1.
PAOK made two changes at half-time with Giannoulis and Murg replacing Wague and Schwab . The opening minutes of the second half had a frantic pace and PAOK created several good opportunities. In the 47th minute, El Kaddouri missed from a good position, while Omonia’s Sene spurned a one-on-one chance three minutes later with Zivkovic pulling off a good save. The goalkeeper picked himself up just in time to parry Tzionis’ follow-up shot onto his right post.
The hosts then were forced to concede both space and possession to PAOK, with the Double-headed Eagle players desperately trying to find a winning goal. In the 84th minute, however, El Kaddouri fouled Loizou in the penalty area and Jordi Gomez stepped up to score from the penalty spot to make it 2-1 to Omonia who celebrated a famous victory.
Elsewhere, Granada was defeated by PSV Eindhoven away from home, but combined with PAOK’s loss, the Spaniards qualified to the knockout stages along with their Dutch opponents, with the last match for PAOK being of a more procedural nature since only the top two sides can go through.
Omonia: Fabiano, Kousoullos (59’ Jordi Gomez), Hubocan, Lang, Luftner, Kiko (59’ Lecjaks), Loizou (85’ Asante), Tzionis, Gomes, Kakoullis (21’ Shehu), Sene (59’ Duris).
PAOK: Zivkovic , Crespo , Varela , Wague (46’ Giannoulis ), Rodrigo , Schwab (46’ Murg ), El Kaddouri , Tsiggaras (79’ Biseswar ), Α.Ζivkovic, Tziolis, Swiderski.
AEK Lost to Braga 2-4
Braga s Vitor Tormena, center, scores the opening goal of his team during the Europa League group G soccer match between AEK Athens and Sporting Braga at the Olympic stadium in Athens, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Earlier, AEK FC lost 2-4 to Sporting Braga in the Olympic Stadium of Athens in a game of Matchday 5 of UEFA Europa League 2020-21 Group Stage.
Zorya-Leicester City 1-0 in the other match of Group G. Leicester City-AEK and Sporting Braga-Zorya Luhansk the schedule of Matchday 6 (December 10).