PAOK the New Best Side in the World After Derby Win over Panathinaikos
Ladies and gentlemen, we have yet another new team to crown as the greatest in the world!
After the high of winning Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) against Roma on Thursday, Panathinaikos have now experienced the low of losing the title just a few days later.
In a top of the table clash, they met rivals PAOK knowing a win would send them eight points clear of their opponents, and five points clear of Olympiakos.
As it was, however, PAOK's 2-1 win has blown the title race wide open, with just two points separating the top three.
The crowd was typically hostile as the derby got underway amidst heavy smoke courtesy of the flares being let off in all areas of the stadium.
With PAOK having the home advantage, it was they who were being urged on more than their opponents, and this led to the first chance of the match.
Some nifty footwork on the right wing from Portuguese midfielder Vieirinha helped him beat his marker and get into some space inside the box. His shot, however, was disappointing as he dragged it past the near post.
As expected, the game struggled to find a constant flow with regular stoppages for free-kicks due to the heavy tackling from both sides.
One such tackle almost led to Panathinaikos taking the lead in the 24th minute. A body-check on the edge of the box was punished with a free-kick, from which Giorgos Karagounis fired a shot against the post.
The next clear chance also fell for the away side as they set about silencing the vociferous home support, and again Karagounis was involved.
He played the role of provider this time, though, as a marauding run down the right flank brought the Panathinaikos skipper to the byline.
He pulled the ball back to the edge of the box where it was met by Loukas Vyntra, only for the Greek international to put his shot wide.
PAOK responded in the dying seconds of the first half with a great chance of their own, from which they really should have taken the lead.
A cross into the box found the head of Edinho, but the Portuguese striker couldn't direct his header goal-wards, instead putting it over the crossbar.
The second half began at a good pace with both sides pressing for that all-important opening goal. Djibril Cisse caused problems with his sheer pace on one occasion, but his final ball to Sebastien Leto was just too heavy.
PAOK then came close when a header bounced narrowly wide of Tzorvas' post before the game finally got it's first goal.
On the hour mark, former Real Madrid man Pablo Garcia delivered a ball into the box from a free-kick in a wide area.
It didn't reach any of his players, however. Instead, it curled beautifully into the top corner of the Panathinaikos goal.
Whether he meant it or not only he knows, but the PAOK fans didn't seem to care as they went wild.
The noise levels were through the roof, but suffered a significant lull less than five minutes later courtesy of a Panathinaikos equaliser.
A low, first time cross from the right by Dimitris Salpingidis found Cisse, who did well to get in front of his marker and slide the ball under the onrushing Konstantinos Chalkias in the PAOK goal.
But while it was the PAOK celebrations that were cut short by that goal, in a matter of minutes Panathinaikos' own celebrations were given the same treatment as the home side once again took the lead.
A long ball up-field from Olivier Sorlin beat the away side's defence and found substitute Zlatan Muslimovic, who controlled it first time with a truly sublime touch before flicking it past Tzorvas.
Panathinaikos had won the UWCC title against Roma thanks to an amazing goal flurry in the space of 10 minutes, and Muslimovic's goal ensured another goal-filled 10 minute period had robbed them of it.
Another substitute, Sotoris Ninis, almost levelled the sides in the 81st minute, but his shot went wide, and PAOK successfully held out the league leaders for the remaining time.
The result means that PAOK are the new UWCC Champions and the 11th different side to win the title.
Panathinaikos become only the third team to have only defended the title once, following in the unenviable footsteps of Wigan and Hull.
Of the 27 voters in the poll, just 18.5 percent correctly predicted that PAOK would be able to beat Panathinaikos and claim the UWCC title, so well done to the majority!
Barney's prediction: Draw (1-1) Actual Result: PAOK win (2-1)
Correct prediction streak: Two wrong in a row!
PAOK 2-1 Panathinaikos (PAOK become new champions)
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Congratulations to PAOK for winning the title! Their first title defence comes next Saturday as they face Xanthi away in the Super League.
Form Book (last five matches): Xanthi - LDLLL; PAOK - WLDWW
Barney's prediction: Xanthi 0-2 PAOK
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Will Xanthi be able to pull off a big upset and hurt PAOK's title bid, or will the new UWCC Champions ensure their title reign is longer than that of Panathinaikos?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
Video highlights from PAOK 2-1 Panathinaikos can be seen here.
Where would it be now?
This week, "Where would it be now?" continues to track the alternative route of the UWCC title from the start of the season!
Last time we saw that Burnley beating Chelsea would have led to Juventus currently holding the title. But where would it be if Stoke had beaten Chelsea on Sept. 12, 2009?
Stoke would have lost the title to Manchester United on Sept. 26, 2009.
Manchester United would have lost the title to Liverpool on Oct. 25, 2009.
Liverpool would have lost the title to Arsenal on Oct. 28, 2009.
Arsenal would have lost the title to Sunderland on Nov. 21, 2009.
Sunderland would have lost the title to Wigan on Nov. 28, 2009.
Wigan would have lost the title to Birmingham on Dec. 5, 2009.
Birmingham would have lost the title to Chelsea on Jan. 27, 2010.
Chelsea would have lost the title to Everton on Feb. 10, 2010.
Everton would still have the title!
On this day...
On this day (Feb. 21) in 2009, Manchester United beat Blackburn 2-1 to retain the UWCC title courtesy of goals from Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, cancelling out Roque Santa Cruz's goal.
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