Aris Still the Best Team in the World Despite Late Scare by Panionios
A solid undefeated streak is exactly what Aris needed entering the final run-in of the Greek Super League season, and a solid undefeated streak is exactly what they are beginning to amass.
This streak was extended on Sunday as the champions of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) retained their crown once again, making it five matches without defeat for Hector Cuper's men.
They weren't able to grab all three points against Panionios, but with Kavala not taking full advantage, the gap between the two sides in the race for the final playoff place remains a healthy five points.
Panionios, playing at home, were looking to get an important win that would keep any sort of playoffs hopes alive, but they didn't get off to a great start, falling 1-0 behind after little more than ten minutes.
It was a familiar face that got the goal too, as Fulham's on-loan striker Eddie Johnson finished off some decent build-up play.
Javito did well to catch Darcy Dolce Neto's pass down the right hand side before pulling it back to a waiting Johnson.
The American striker's shot wasn't the most powerful, and goalkeeper Tomas Belic would have been unhappy at being beaten at his near post, but that made no difference to the travelling support as they celebrated taking an important lead.
The smiles were almost wiped off their faces soon after, however, as the home side had two good chances in quick succession.
The first came courtesy of a decent cross by Davor Kukec that found the head of Sito Riera, but the Spaniard could only direct his effort at goalkeeper Michal Peskovic.
Just seconds later, Kukec took advantage of a weak clearance to put in another enticing cross, but this time it was Souleiman Omolade who was unable to beat Peskovic with a header.
Panionios continued to flow forward looking for a quick equaliser, and they came close again within minutes.
A shot from the edge of the box by Omolade was parried by Peskovic straight into the path of Fanouris Goundoulakis, but he somehow sent follow-up effort wide.
In an action packed opening 20 minutes, the home side somehow couldn't find an equaliser, despite everyone's best efforts. After providing two good chances earlier on, Kukec looked to do the job himself, but his long range effort flew narrowly wide.
For all of Panionis chances, and there were plenty for the home fans to be upset their side hadn't at least made it 1-1, Aris did a fairly good job in limiting them to shots from outside the penalty area.
These could still be dangerous, however, as defender Edin Cocalic demonstrated by smashing a powerful effort just over the crossbar.
Once again, Aris had escaped without conceding a goal, and they continued to do so until half-time.
Arguably Panionios best chance of the match came soon after the two teams took to the field again.
A superb run by Omolade, showcasing his impressive close control and strength, resulted in a pullback to Sito Riera who, from all of eight yards, managed to blaze the ball over the bar.
The home fans were rueing yet more dreadful finishing on the hour mark too.
After a challenge by Omolade, the ball rebounded to Kukec on the edge of the box who, despite having only the keeper to beat and the time and space to do so, fluffed his shot past the post.
How Aris still held their 1-0 lead at this point was a mystery to everyone in the stadium, including those who were representing the away side.
They would have 20 more minutes of trying to solve this mystery before it was finally put to bed with the well-deserved equaliser.
Bennard Yao Kumordzi collected the ball from the left wing and, with his back to goal, laid it off to Kukec who despite missing a much easier chance earlier on, dispatched it into the bottom corner.
They came within inches of a dramatic late turnaround too with a chance just minutes later. A free-kick into the danger-zone was poked past the onrushing 'keeper, but it drifted agonisingly wide.
With just five minutes left, only a smart save by Peskovic prevented the home side from getting that let win, but despite having so many good chances, they had to make do with just the one point.
68.4 percent of voters in the poll correctly predicted that Panionios wouldn't be able to take Aris' UWCC title off them, so well done to the majority!
Barney's prediction: Aris win (2-1) Actual result: Draw (1-1)
Correct prediction streak: One match wrong in a row!
Aris 2-0 PAOK (Aris become new champions)
Panionios 1-1 Aris
( Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Aris' next title defence comes on Thursday as they face Kavala in the second leg of their Greek Cup semi-final, holding a 3-1 aggregate lead.
Form Book (last five matches): Kavala - WDLLD; Aris - WDWWD
Barney's prediction: Kavala 0-1 Aris
What are you predictions for this upcoming match? Will Aris be able to progress to the final of the Greek Cup in style or will Kavala overturn the two goal deficit? Could Aris progress but lose the UWCC title?
Voice your opinions in the comments section!
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