PAOK Cruise Past Panthrakikos To Maintain Status as Best in the World
Just five matches remain in the Greek Super League season, and the three-way title race still hangs precariously in the balance.
After the last round of matches, it has become a little more clear cut with Olympiakos' shocking loss to Iraklis that created a five-point gap between the top three.
For the top two, however, the two-point cushion remains. Panathinaikos still hold top spot, but PAOK continued its good form with a 3-0 win over bottom-of-the-table Panthrakikos to keep the pressure on.
In addition, the result ensures that PAOK keeps hold of the Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ).
The result was expected, as was the manner in which it occurred, with PAOK demonstrating the gulf in class between the two sides.
Manager Fernando Santos would have been happy with the way his side started the match, dominating possession in front of their own fans, but it was the away side who created the first-half chance of the match.
It came from an early corner, which was met at the front post by an optimistic header, which ended up flying narrowly past Konstantinos Chalkias' goal.
PAOK responded with a chance of their own, and again it came via a corner. Pablo Garcia's vicious ball into the box was met by Stelios Melezas, but the defender's header went just wide.
However, the home crowd didn't have to wait too long for the opener, and Melezas banished any disappointment from the earlier miss by getting it.
A free kick into the box was headed across goal by Vladan Ivic to Olivier Sorlin, who proceeded to bundle it towards the line.
Panthrakikos goalkeeper Manuel Roca managed to keep it out, although it looked like it may have been over the line, only to see Melezas follow up by converting the rebound.
The goal ensured there would be no controversy over whether the initial shot had gone in or not, with PAOK players and fans stopping mid-appeal to celebrate the goal.
The home side should have doubled their lead in the 30th minute when some brilliant buildup play left Edinho with a golden opportunity.
Lino beat two men on the left wing with some brilliant skill before playing the ball into Ivic. The Serbian played a first-time pass into Edinho who, having been given the luxury of time, space, and with only the keeper to beat, fired his shot wide.
It was the best move of the game and although no goal came from it, it showed how easily PAOK could cut open the Panthrakikos defence.
They had that second goal eventually, however, as Olivier Sorlin capitalised on some poor defending to send the home side into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
A cross from the right wing enticed Roca out of his goal, but the Panthrakikos keeper completely missed the ball, as did two defenders, leaving Sorlin with the easy task of putting it into the empty net.
By this stage it was almost an exhibition match for the home side. Panthrakikos rarely forayed out of their own half, and PAOK dominated the possession. It seemed they could create chances at will.
However, perhaps this made them a little complacent, as they blew another great opening.
Zlatan Muslimovic was sent through on goal with only Roca to beat. He tried to go round the Panthrakikos keeper, but was denied before playing the ball across goal to Edinho, who seemed in no hurry to control and shoot, giving the away side's defence enough time to block his eventual shot.
Such complacency almost punished them at the other end too, as Panthrakikos enjoyed arguably the best chance of the match.
Foutis Papoulis advanced on the left side of the PAOK penalty area before aiming a shot at the near post. Chalkias made a good save, but couldn't hold onto the ball as it bobbled out to the feet of Steve Beleck.
However, Panthrakikos' Cameroonian striker couldn't turn the ball in from all of four yards, as Chalkias got up to smother it at Beleck's feet.
Just minutes later, PAOK truly ended the game off with the best goal of the match.
Sorlin played a passive ball into the path of Lino who, from the edge of the penalty area, struck it first time past Roca and into the back of the net.
It wasn't too far from being four goals either, as a Pablo Garcia free kick late on almost fooled Roca, but the Spanish keeper adjusted and tipped the cross/shot over.
The 3-0 scoreline is the joint biggest UWCC win this season, and Stelios Melezas' opener was the 100th goal in UWCC title matches this season too!
A magnificent 272 people voted in last week's poll, and 89 percent of the them correctly predicted that PAOK would be able to avoid defeat to Panthrakikos, so well done to the majority!
Barney's prediction: PAOK win (4-0) Actual result: PAOK win (3-0)
Correct prediction streak: Two matches in a row!
PAOK 2-1 Panathinaikos (PAOK become new champions)
PAOK 3-0 Panthrakikos
( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
PAOK's next title defence comes on Sunday as they face an away match against Aris in the Super League.
Form Book (last five matches): Aris - WWLWD; PAOK - DWWWW
Barney's prediction: Aris 1-2 PAOK
What are your predictions for this upcoming fixture? Can PAOK make it five wins in a row and keep the pressure on Panathinaikos, or will the form book be thrown out the window in this derby, allowing Aris to wreck their rivals' title dreams?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
Video highlights of PAOK 3-0 Panthrakikos can be seen here .
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