by Shaun Nicolaides
AEK Athens claimed the club’s maiden Greek championship in 24 years on Sunday, defeating Levadiakos 2:0 at a raucous Olympic Stadium in Athens.
Requiring a point to seal the Super League title, AEK predictably took the game to Levadiakos in the early stages, opening the scoring when Anastasios Bakasetas expertly converted a penalty. The same player then doubled AEK’s advantage later in the first half, thumping a firm drive beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.
After the final whistle signalled the end of AEK’s 24-year wait to become champions of Greece, head coach Manolo Jimenez shared his emotions: “AEK won this championship on the field,” began the 54-year old Spaniard. “In this season, all fans, not only the AEK supporters, have seen our team perform consistently well in the championship, the cup and Europe. However, there were no easy games. We had to be 100% ready.
To summarize the season, we lost against CSKA in the Champions League, but we should have won the second match in Moscow. Sergio Araujo arrived late, before Petros Mantalos, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Jakob Johansson and Uros Cosic all received injuries. Our worst game of the campaign was against Asteras in Tripoli. When playing Dynamo Kyiv in the Europa League, the guys gave their all. In the Super League, we didn’t lose a single derby match.”
“This is the best time of my career,” continued Jimenez. “I won the championship in Qatar, had a great season with Zaragoza, but this tops them all. Today, we have made many dreams come true, we owed it to the fans to make them happy. Now, we need to see out the season with dignity.”
AEK captain Petros Mantalos, who made his comeback after several months on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, commented on the fans’ vociferous support inside the OAKA: “What happened today with our fans will live in our minds forever. I have missed a lot of football, but I made my return in front of a full OAKA. Before the Greek Cup final we have two more league matches, I will take my time to that I can play in the match.”
Goalkeeper Vasilis Barkas was naturally overjoyed after claiming his first championship with AEK: “The feeling with the fans here was amazing, I’ve been waiting for this. We deserved this title, we gave everything over the course of the season. In the Greek Cup final with PAOK, it will be a match between the best two teams, we want to win the double for the first time in 40 years.”
Enosis owner Dimitris Melissanidis expressed his happiness at winning the Super League: “24 years is a long time, the team deserved this success,” beamed Melissanidis. “All of our fans in Greece came here to see this result and they deserve it. During the season, both the coaches and players have fought for this triumph. Nevertheless, we want to win the Greek Cup too.”
*Image Source: onsports.gr
*For more sport head to agonasport.com