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“It’s all Greek to me” – The Greek Super League so far

September 28, 2010

Take one glance at the Greek Super League table after just four games and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s all got off to a rather predictable start. The two big names of Greek football Olympiakos Piräus and Panathinaikos, no doubt familiar to fans across Europe, are currently ahead of an unfamiliar pack but the truth is a slightly different. Neither of the two clubs, who have won 57 Greek League titles between them, have been impressive in their early matches while last year’s contenders AEK Athens and PAOK have failed to hit the ground running in a league that could be quite exciting, you know, below the top two.

In the country’s capital, sections of the AEK Athens crowd have been doing everything they can to force their manager out and it has finally worked. Dusan Bajevic, an undisputed legend of Greek football thanks to his eight Greek Super League wins as a coach, resigned from the club on Monday night. Never forgiven by some of the AEK faithful for his time in charge of great-rivals Olympiakos, Bajevic was punched and kicked by a gang after a pre-season friendly before having chairs thrown at him following Sunday’s shock 3-1 defeat to Olympiakos Volos. The 61 year-old, who wasn’t hit by any of the chairs, resigned soon after the match without trying to offer any excuses for his team’s poor start to the season. AEK have taken four points from four games, and not even a positive start to their Europa League campaign with a 3-1 victory Hajduk Split was enough for Dusan to stay. A busy summer of recruitment that saw Christos Patsatzoglou, Claudio Dadómo and Papa Bouba Diop brought in had seen a wave of optimism flow over AEK as they looked to improve on two successive 4th place league finishes. But the start has not echoed those hopes and a second away defeat to a newly-promoted side, following the opening day loss to AO Kerkyra, brought to an end Bajevic’s third tenure in charge of AEK.

Olympiakos Piräus did not win their first game of the new season until September. Ernesto Valverde, who had left Olympiakos at the end of the 2008/09 season to join Villarreal, returned to the club in August with one aim; get the Greek Super League title back from Panathinaikos. Albert Riera, Dennis Rommedahl, François Modesto and Kevin Mirallas were brought in from the four corners of Europe while Ernesto went back to his former Spanish employers to snag “El Caño” Ariel Ibagaza. But the most successful team in Greek football history were knocked out of Europe before the league season had even begun by Maccabi Tel Aviv and were then shocked by Iraklis on the opening day. Karim Soltani set-up Anostolos Vellios with just four minutes left in the game to heap immediate pressure on Valverde but since that disappointment Olympiakos have scaled to the top of the league. Thanks to a combination of battling wins, the sides around them dropping points  and two goals each from Ibagaza and other new-boy Marko Pantelić things are looking a lot rosier for The Red-Whites. No doubt one eye has already been focused on the first ‘Derby of the Eternal Enemies’ (Ντέρμπι των αιωνίων αντιπάλων) which is still one full month away but that is plenty of time for Τhrylos to get their act together.

The Champions have been just as unconvincing in their first four games even though they are the only side still unbeaten in the Greek Super League. Having ended a six year spell without winning the league, Nikos Nioplias refused to rest on his laurels as he looks to retain the Championship and had a very busy break. Panathinaikos signed Jean-Alain Boumsong and Sidney Govou from Olympique Lyonnais, Luis Garcia from Racing Santander and Georgios Ioannidis from Iraklis during the summer but were then held to a 1-1 draw by Skoda Xanthi on the opening day of the league. A Djibril Cissé penalty helped Trifylli scrape to victory over Aris in their second game before they were humbled by a certain small Argentinean at the Nou Camp. Lionel Messi lead Barcelona in a 5-1 destruction of the Greek champions and even that disappointment couldn’t kick Nioplias’ side into gear. Two disappointing performances have followed; but on the plus side for Panathinaikos are still grinding out results. Isn’t that one sign of winners?

Behind the big two, a host of potential contenders have got off to strong starts. Iraklis, AO Kerkyra and Olympiakos Volou are on seven points and have all taken points off the bigger teams in Greece. The latter two teams, Kerkyra and Volou have beaten AEK while it was Iraklis that welcomed Ernesto Valverde back to Greek league football with defeat. Iraklis are the strongest of the three teams thanks to their Super League experience and given some of the shrewd business they did in the summer, Europe isn’t completely out of the question. Hell, thanks to the wacky play-offs that decide places 2, 3, 4 and 5 in Greece, Iraklis could even qualify for the Champions League next season.

The other two sides involved in Europe have had some mixed fortunes so far. Victory over Panserraikos on the opening day remains PAOK’s only victory of the season. They are in 12th place in the table and have to overcome Dinamo Zagreb on Thursday before facing fellow Europa League entrants Aris on Saturday. Aris Saloniki, who shocked Atlético Madrid two weeks ago, have been involved in five 1-0 games so far this season which they have won three of. Not enthralling games as far as I am told, but effective none the less. They have managed to enjoy themselves in Europe while still keeping touch with the early leaders.

This isn’t likely to be a season that sees the domination of Olympiakos and Panathinaikos completely shattered but there are signs that some clubs are heading in that direction. The next set of games begins on Saturday October 2nd.

This post can also be found on Just Football and this link here: Big Fat Greek Super League Roundup

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