Greece will have two representatives in the Europa League this season, with PAOK Thessalonikis and AEK Athens both qualifying for the competition. Panathinaikos’ attempts to qualify fell short with the Greens losing out to Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Playing against Karpaty in Ukraine, PAOK, who had already won the first leg 2-0 in Thessaloniki a week earlier, made their qualification simple by scoring a 1-1 draw in the second leg to advance 3-1 on aggregate. The Ukranians scored first on the night when Lucas converted a penalty on the stroke of half-time, but PAOK pulled one back early in the second half through Sotiris Balafas. In Georgia, things were a little more difficult for visiting AEK, who needed extra time against Dinamo Tbilisi to secure qualification.
A goal by Dinamo Tiblisi captain Alexandre Koshkadze in the first minute with the first attack of the game was enough to cancel out AEK’s lead from the home tie in Athens. Despite dominating much of the second half, and missing two great opportunities, AEK could not score in the regular 90 minutes and required a penalty from second-half substitute Leonardo in the 112th minute to secure a place in the group stage for AEK. The bad-te
mpered game ended with two home players and AEK’s Grigoris Makos being sent off in the closing stages.
Greece’s third representative in the qualifiers, Panthinaikos, always had a mountain to climb at home after losing 3-0 in Israel and despite a more competent display in the first-half, the score remained 0-0. The Greens faced mission impossible when the visitors took the lead in the 62nd minute through Haris Medunjanin. The lead was short-lived, though, as PAO hit back with a Jean-Alain Boumsong header on 70 minutes.
Moments later Moussa Konate was sent off for Maccabi and Panathinaikos took full advantage with Spanish striker Toche grabbing the winner in the 80th minute. The victory did little to mask what has been a disappointing start to the season for Jesualdo Ferreira and his men.
Matters were made worse by clashes between Panathinaikos and Maccabi fans in the stands. Riot police used tear gas to keep rival supporters apart in the first-half, forcing the game to be delayed for a few minutes. European soccer’s governing body UEFA is likely to investigate the incident, which could spell more problems for the Greens.