Aris The New Best Team In The World After Victory Over Nine Man PAOK

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IMarch 15, 2010

PAOK's title challenge took a significant blow on Sunday as they lost out to Aris in one of the most fiercely contested derby matches in world football.

The Greek city of Thessaloniki came to a standstill as PAOK entered enemy territory to defend Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC ) against neighbours Aris.

A win for PAOK would have kept the pressure on league leaders Panathinaikos, re-establishing the two-point gap that had grown to five following Panathinaikos' earlier win over Asteras Tripolis.

Alas, it was not to be as Aris gleefully spoiled the party. Around the world, many fans will tell you that in such derby matches, the bragging rights are just as important as the points that invariably accompany them.

It was the home side who carried away the bragging rights on Sunday with a 2-0 win over a PAOK side eventually reduced to nine men.

The damage on PAOK's end was not as bad as it could have been, however, as Olympiakos only managed a draw against PAS Giannina, making it just one win in five for the champions.

While the top three may be out of the reach of Aris, the win puts valuable breathing space between them and Kavala, both of whom are battling for the final playoff place.

The home crowd was typically vociferous, and the added spice of their hated neighbours coming to play whipped them up into a frenzy.

They didn't have to wait too long for the first goal of the match either and, much to the delight of the vast majority packed into the Kleánthis Vikelídis Stadium, it came for the home side.

After 21 minutes, French midfielder Camel Meriem exchanged a couple of one-two passes with former Birmingham midfielder Mehdi Nafti before playing the ball into the feet of Javier Campora.

The Argentinian striker instantly controlled the ball with his back to goal before swivelling and firing an early strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

It was a brilliant finish by Campora, and one which seemed to take the entire PAOK defence by surprise, such was the early nature of it. Goalkeeper Konstantinos Chalkias certainly wasn't expecting the snap-shot.

With every game from now on being a "must win" game for PAOK if their dreams of the league title were to be fulfilled, the players wouldn't have needed reminding that defeat was unacceptable.

But try as they might to get that vital equaliser, it wasn't forthcoming.

Instead, it was Aris who got the second goal of the match, and again it came courtesy of a magnificent Campora effort, this time just after the hour mark.

Nafti was involved in the build-up of this goal too, whipping a cross in to the near post that Campora challenged for.

With neither he nor the PAOK defender getting the desired contact on the ball, it fell between the two.

Campora reacted quickest, however, firing a first-time half-volley past Chalkias from an acute angle.

It was another superb strike that seemed to take Chalkias by surprise, but even if the Greek shot-stopper had expected that shot, he'd have been hard pressed to keep it out.

The celebrations were unrestrained as Aris fans and players alike showcased their joy for all to see while their PAOK counterparts tried their best not to be seen.

The away side showed good spirit trying to get back into the match, but their desire at times crossed the thin line between dedication and recklessness.

Some wayward challenges brought a flurry of yellow cards, and inevitably the cards eventually changed colour.

PAOK defender Miroslav Sznaucer was the first to receive his marching orders, he was shown a second yellow in the 78th minute, while just two minutes later Vierinha joined him in having an early bath after also being booked twice.

PAOK's challenge understandably drifted off from there. The 10 minutes left in the lion's den must have felt like 10 hours for the nine men still on the field as, with no chance of victory, the home fans made sure the away side knew they were defeated.

Congratulations must go to Aris for defeating PAOK and becoming the new UWCC champions, the 12th different team to have done so.

Sznaucer's red card was the 20th in UWCC history and the 13th of this season.

Of the 23 people who voted on the poll, just 17.2 percent correctly predicted that Aris would win, so well done to the minority!

Barney's prediction: PAOK win (2-1)     Actual result: Aris win (2-0)

Correct prediction streak: One match wrong in a row!

Aris' run

Aris 2-0 PAOK (Aris become new champions)

( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)

Aris' first title defence comes on Wednesday as they host Kavala in the Greek Cup.

Form Book (last five matches): Aris - WLWDW; Kavala - WWWDL

Barney's prediction: Aris 1-0 Kavala

What are your predictions for this upcoming match? Will Kavala be able to end Aris' UWCC title run before it has even begun, or will the new champions put themselves in poll position for their cup tie?

Voice your opinions in the comments section!

Video highlights of Aris 2-0 PAOK can be seen here .


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