Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Greece: Cissé fires Pana into Champions League

Posted in European Football by peterbein on May 25, 2011
Djibril Cisse

Djibril Cisse's two goals against AEK secured Panathinaikos the second Champions League spot

Panathinaikos have won the end of season play-offs, which determine who will be the second team to represent Greece in next season’s UEFA Champions League, having defeated AEK Athens by two goals to nil in tonight’s match.

Djibril Cissé was the hero for Panathinaikos who, having lost out to Olympiakos in the fight for the Super League title this season, were made to work hard for the second Champions League spot even though they started the play-off phase with a two point advantage over tonight’s opponents AEK. Nonetheless “Pana” knew that a win for them would clinch second and this they did thanks to French international Cissé who scored both of his goals within ten second half minutes.

In the other play-off game PAOK Thessaloniki did what they had to do to keep up the pressure on Pana in case of any slip ups by beating Olympiakos Volos with a comfortable 5-1 margin with goals for Dimitrios Salpingidis (2), Adelino Vieirinha, Diego Arias and Zlatan Muslimovic helping the home side ultimately clinch second place.

1. PANATHINAIKOS Played 6, Points 13

2. PAOK THESSALONIKI Played 6, Points 12

3. AEK ATHENS Played 6, Points 8

4 .OLYM. VOLOS Played 6, Points 6

Greece: Panathinaikos celebrate league and cup double

Posted in European Football by peterbein on April 24, 2010
Panathinaikos

Panathinaikos are celebrating winning the league and cup double in Greece

Greek Super League champions Panathinaikos are celebrating winning their first league and cup double since 2004 after they defeated Aris Thessaloniki 1-0 in the Greek Cup final on Saturday. Argentinian Sebastián Leto scored the only goal midway through the second half to give Prasinoi (the Greens) victory in a memorable season. “Stoppage Time – International Football Blog” reviews the 2009-10 season in Greece.

Before the season got under way many were asking if anybody could halt the juggernault that was Olympiakos, the perennial Greek champions having won thirteen of the previous fourteen league titles. In that time Panathinaikos’ 2004 triumph was the only time that Thrylos (the Legend) had gone without the trophy. However there were to be hard times ahead for Olympiakos as they  sacked two coaches, Temuri Ketsbaia and Zico, during the season despite only losing four league games in the campaign. Current coach Božidar Bandović was able to take the title race to the penultimate game of the season but it was clear that Panathinaikos, whose coach Henk Ten Cate left during the season through mutual consent, were the most consistent side throughout the campaign and they had the league’s top scorer Djibril Cissé. The Frenchman scored twenty-one goals on the way to leading his team to a six point title triumph over Olympiakos and a further two ahead of third place PAOK Thessaloniki. PAOK had a very respectable campaign and, at one point, threatened to take the title over the Big Two but had a little less strength in depth than their title rivals, dropping points towards the end of the season. In the end it was Panathinaikos who held their nerve and claimed their 20th league championship in the process.

In the race for European places there are four teams who will compete in the end of season play-offs for the second UEFA Champions League for next season with each team allocated a number of points depending on where they finished in the regular season. Second place Olympiakos start with four points, one ahead of PAOK. AEK Athens, who had a truly bad start to the season, will begin the play-offs with one point while fifth place Aris will begin pointless. Each team will play each other in a home and away round robin with the leader after six games claiming the spot in Europe’s top club competition next season. At the bottom of the Super League it was a very difficult campaign for Panthrakikos who didn’t win a league game until Matchday 20 by which time they were as good as relegated. They will be joined in the second division next season by PAS Giannina and Levadiakos, the latter were unlucky to be the final team to go down as anyone up to Larissa in eighth place could’ve gone down with only three points separating those teams after thirty games.

The final of the Kypello Elladas (Greek Cup) pitted champions Panathinaikos against Aris Thessaloniki, the latter hoping to win their second cup title after their one and only to date in 1970. However the final didn’t really live up to the billing as both teams cancelled each other out for large chunks of the game. The game was 63 minutes old when the crucial moment arrived. Former Liverpool player Sebastián Leto hit a hopeful shot from 30 yards out which bounced twice along the ground before finding the back of the net. Aris tried to attack the Pana goal late on the game in the hope of finding that all important equalizer to take the game into extra-time but it wasn’t to be. Panathinaikos secured their 17th Greek Cup triumph and, with it, their seventh league and cup double.

Cissé fires “Pana” five points clear in Greece

Posted in European Football by peterbein on January 7, 2010
Djibril Cisse

Djibril Cissé scored twice in Panathinaikos' 4-1 win over Ergotelis FC

The Greek Super League returned to action this week and it proved to be a welcome return for Panathinaikos who were the big winners after all the Matchday 16 games had been completed.

Already two points ahead in the championship table Panathinaikos (41 points from 16 games) came from behind to dispose of Ergotelis FC 4-1. After Ergotelis had taken a shock lead through Michail Fragulaikis, former Liverpool FC striker Djibril Cissé scored a brace, one goal in each half, and was joined on the scoresheet by Giorgos Karagounis and another ex-Liverpool player Sebastián Leto, who scored two minutes into stoppage time to complete the rout. “Pana” increased their lead in the table over champions Olympiakos to five points just hours before their main title challengers were due to play a big city derby against AEK Athens.

Olympiakos (36 points), who have won all but one of the last thirteen Greek championships (‘Pana’ breaking up the spell winning the 2004 title), played at home against the team whom they defeated to win the Greek Cup final last season in one of the greatest matches of all time (4-4 after extra-time followed by a penalty shoot out which Olympiakos won 15-14). When the home side took the lead through a controversial Avraam Papadopolous goal on 28 minutes things seemed to be going the way of Zico’s men. However the lead only lasted five minutes after Nacho Scocco equalised with a well taken strike. When the same player scored his second to give AEK the lead on 40 minutes the home fans were stunned. It is not very often that Olympiakos fans see their team lose at home but after another frustrating 45 minutes in the second half that was exactly what they were to experience for the first time this season. For AEK it could prove to be a turning point in a hitherto miserable season. The win took them up to fifth place and now they can hope to challenge for a place in Europe next season.

In the other games PAOK Thessaloniki remain third after a 1-0 home win over Panionios. Vladimir Ivic’s strike took PAOK to thirty-one points, five behind second place Olympiakos. Their arch-rivals Aris beat Atromitos 3-0 to remain fourth in the table, six points behind PAOK and one ahead of AEK. At the bottom of the league it’s looking more and more desperate for Panthrakikos (2 points from 16 games) who remain without a win after going down to a 3-1 defeat away at Iraklis. Second bottom Giannina gained a point away at Xanthi to increase the deficit between themselves and Panthrakikos to thirteen, therefore highlighting the mountain which the latter have to climb if they are to avoid relegation.

European Leagues: Winter Break Round-up

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 22, 2009
Samuel Eto'o

Samuel Eto'o is all smiles as his club Internazionale lead Italy's Serie A

With the exception of England, Scotland and France, most of the league championships in Europe have taken a well earned break for Christmas time. “Stoppage Time” reviews the season so far in Europe’s top leagues:

SPAIN

This looks like it will be a two horse race between arch-rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Spanish, European and World champions FC Barcelona (39 points from 15 games) hold a slim two point advantage over ‘El Real’ whose performances haven’t always been great but whose capability of getting results has improved. Sevilla looked for a while like a potential ‘stalking horse’ candidate for the title, keeping close to the top but they have slipped off the pace in recent weeks. At the bottom of the table newly promoted sides such as Xerez (7 points from 15 games) and Real Zaragoza have found the going tough. A traditional giant of the Spanish game, Atlético Madrid find themselves just one point from the cellar after a string of poor displays.

ITALY

FC Internazionale of Milan (39 points from 17 games), including striker Samuel Eto’o (pictured) find themselves in charge of Serie A yet again. Going for a fifth consecutive championship, the Nerazzurri’s only challengers to date appear to be local enemies AC Milan, who are eight points behind with a game in hand. The Rossoneri have come back strongly after a really poor start under the stewardship of Leonardo. Juventus appeared to be going well under new coach Ciro Ferrara but have lost their last three games and remain a point further behind Milan having played a game more. At the bottom of the league six points separate Udinese in 14th place from AC Siena in last place (12 points after 17 games), signalling that a tight relegation battle could be just around the corner.

GERMANY

Bayer 04 Leverkusen (35 points from 17 games) remain unbeaten to be crowned the unofficial “Herbstmeister” (autumn champions) in the Bundesliga. However the ‘Werkself’ (Work’s Eleven) have drawn a lot a games meaning that their lead is a narrow one point margin from nearest challengers Schalke 04, who have done well considering their financial troubles. Despite Bayern Munich’s less than impressive start to the season the Bavarian giants are a further point behind Schalke. Louis Van Gaal has withstood the criticism and has guided Bayern to third place at the halfway stage with 33 points. The surprise of the season so far is 1. FSV Mainz 05, who were promoted from the second division last season, who have a respectable eighth place finish after 17 games. Hertha Berlin is the surprise team at the bottom of the table (6 points/17 games), all the more surprising considering they won on the opening day against Hannover 96. Other big clubs close to the bottom are 1. FC Nürnberg, who sacked their coach Michael Oenning on Monday, and VfB Stuttgart, who replaced Markus Babbel with former Tottenham Hotspur coach Christian Gross in early December.

PORTUGAL

The Portuguese Superliga normally has three contenders for the title but one of this year’s contenders is an unfamiliar one: Sporting Braga. They lead the table jointly with SL Benfica (33 points from 14 games) with perennial champions FC Porto four points behind. Many hope that Braga can keep up with the big two especially since the tradional third power of Portuguese football, Sporting, are struggling domestically (21 points/14 games) but performing well in Europe. Also many remember last season’s surprise package Leixões, who led the table early on in 2008-09, falling away late in the season. Could Braga really become only the sixth club (after Benfica, Porto, Sporting, Belenenses and Boavista) to win the Portuguese championship? At the bottome Leixões’ glory days from last season are well and truly behind them as they now are fighting against relegation lying just one point above the bottom two clubs Olhanense and Belenenses (10 points/14 games).

HOLLAND

Steve McClaren has done an impressive job at FC Twente (47 points/17 games) thus far and he’s already hoping to go one better than last season. The club from Enschede were runners-up in both league and cup in 2008-09 but McClaren’s men currently lead the Eredivisie by two points from PSV Eindhoven. PSV’s coach Fred Rutten has given new purpose to the Philips owned club after they lost direction last season under Huub Stevens which led to them weakly giving up their run of four consecutive titles. Ajax, coached by Martin Jol, have suffered a few defeats and are nine points off the pace. Their arch-rivals Feyenoord Rotterdam have also been rejuvenated under new coach Mario Been and a further point behind having played a game more. At the bottom RKC Waalwijk (12 points/18 games) will hope to avoid the automatic relegation spot at the end of the season as they are not far off the teams above NEC Nijmegen, ADO Den Haag and Willem II Tilburg.

GREECE

It’s the same old story in Greece as champions Olympiakos Piraeus are involved in a two-way tussle with league leaders Panathinaikos (38 points/15 games) for the championship. As usual PAOK Thessaloniki threaten to make a fight of it but end up dropping too many points but they should easily get a place in Europe. Athen’s third club AEK have struggled for form and consistency in both Greek and European competition thus far and lie in eighth place on 21 points. At the bottom of the table it’s been a dreadful time for promoted Panthrakikos who remain without a win after fifteen games. They have only two points at this stage and are dead certs for the drop. Above them the likes of Giannina, Levadiakos (14 points), Larissa and Iraklis (15 points) will hope to avoid joining them in the second division next season.

TURKEY

The Turkish Superlig could be one of the most exciting for years. Fenerbahçe (37 points/17 games) lead at the halfway stage by just one point from eternal rivals Galatasaray. Then there are two unexpected title chasers in Bursaspor and Kayserispor (35 and 34 points respectively) as well as last season’s champions Beşiktaş (32 points). “Fener” will miss on the services of Roberto Carlos after the winter break as he heads back to Brazil to finish his career at Corinithians. Last season’s surprise package Sivasspor struggled in the early weeks of the season but will hope that they can take recent good form into the second half of the season. They are ten points ahead of second bottom Denizlispor (7 points/17 games) and seventeen ahead of Ankaraspor who are pointless (numerically speaking, of course) at the halfway stage and look certain for the drop.

UEFA Europa League groups Round-Up: Part Two

Posted in European Football by peterbein on December 19, 2009
BATE Borisov fans

Fans of BATE Borisov taunt their opponents Everton on Matchday 2. Everton, however, had the last laugh winning 2-1.

In the second half of our UEFA Europa League group stage round-up “Stoppage Time” looks at the groups that concluded on Thursday, December 17th:

GROUP A (RSC ANDERLECHT, AJAX AMSTERDAM, DINAMO ZAGREB, FC TIMISOARA)

Blessed with years of European experience and tradition, Benelux neighbours Ajax Amsterdam and RSC Anderlecht of Brussels easily negotiated their way through this group. Their Matchday 6 match in Amsterdam still had some importance, though, as Anderlecht’s 3-1 win meant that they topped the group on account of a better head-to-head record over their Dutch challengers, both teams finishing on eleven points. Dinamo Zagreb were optimistic of further progress earlier in the competition as they had three points from two matches but they failed to build on their good start. Champions League Play-Off losers FC Timisoara scored a respectable five points on their maiden Europa League campaign but still finished fourth in the group table.

GROUP B (VALENCIA CF, LILLE, GENOA FC, SLAVIA PRAGUE)

Valencia secured qualification and the top spot on Matchday 6. They went into their game away at Genoa needing only a point to be certain of going through to the last 32 whilst hosts Genoa needed all three points to finish at least second. With the game tied at 1-1 in stoppage time, David Villa was gifted the ball from Genoa goalkeeper Alessio Scarpi to secure the victory in the 94th mnute. Elsewhere Lille’s 3-1 win at home to Slavia Prague ensured that they finished second, two points behind the leaders. Slavia, who have dominated the Czech league in the last two seasons, have been struggling domestically this season and this form was transferred into Europe as they remained without a victory after six games.

GROUP C (HAPOEL TEL AVIV, HAMBURGER SV, GLASGOW CELTIC, RAPID VIENNA)

Israeli side Hapoel were the surprise winners of this group finishing two points ahead of German giants Hamburg. Their Matchday 6 encounter in Tel Aviv ended as a 1-0 win for the hosts and it was they who leapfrogged “HSV” into first place. The biggest disappointment of the group were Scottish club Celtic who were unable to re-create their many great European nights under new coach Tony Mowbray. Among the highlights of the group were the encounters involving Celtic and Austrians Rapid Vienna, whose little known rivalry dates back to a controversial European Cup Winners’ Cup second round match in 1984-85. Both games ended drawn but the Matchday 6 encounter would’ve felt like a win for the Glasgow giants as they came back from 3-0 down after 18 minutes to draw 3-3 with virtually the last kick of the game and demote their Austrian hosts to last place.

GROUP G (RED BULL SALZBURG, VILLARREAL CF, SS LAZIO, LEVSKI SOFIA)

The only team who finished their campaign with a 100% record was Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg suggesting that they could be a good outside bet to go far in the competition. Huub Stevens’ men beat all challengers home and away to finish a clear nine points ahead of second place Villarreal. Italian capital side Lazio frustrated their followers as they could only win two of their six games and finished three points behind the little Spanish village team. Bulgarians Levski Sofia fared little better than their local rivals CSKA (see previous blog) finishing bottom with three points.

GROUP H (FENERBAHCE, FC TWENTE ENSCHEDE, STEAUA BUCHAREST, FC SHERIFF TIRASPOL)

Steve McClaren’s FC Twente were looking comfortable after two games but then nearly blew their qualifications chances. After Turkish side Fenerbahce secured the leadership of the group, FC Twente were relying on them to do them a favour on Matchday 6. Twente needed a win away at 1986 European champions Steaua Bucharest but could only manage a 1-1 draw in very cold, frosty conditions played in front of a sparse crowd. However the surprise team FC Sheriff from Moldova had to win against the already-qualified “Fener” to grab the second spot but the Turkish team did McClaren’s a favour beating the Moldovans 1-0.

GROUP I (SL BENFICA, EVERTON FC, BATE BORISOV, AEK ATHENS)

No surprises in group I were Benfica and Everton went through to the Round of 32 with one match to spare. Benfica, in particular, showed their class in their two matches with nearest challengers Everton scoring seven goals without reply in their two games (5-0 at home and 2-0 away). The Merseysiders, however, did progress thanks to three wins out of four against their eastern European opponents, the only defeat coming on Matchday 6 at home to Belarussian champions BATE Borisov but Everton were already through to the next round and played a very young team on the night. Benfica finished top with 15 points (only a shock defeat away at a very poor AEK Athens denied them a 100% record), Everton scored nine points, BATE avoided the wooden spoon scoring seven points compared to AEK’s four points.