CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Thursday, February 11, 2010
Aris salvaged a last-gasp tie to force a Super Cup replay in Thessaloniki next Wednesday, thanks to a goal from Darcy Dolce Neto that slipped in before the final curtain fell.
In a muddy affair with a thrilling conclusion, Freddy Adu entered the starting eleven for the first time in just over an hour of action while Eddie Johnson came on as a second half substitute.
Coach Hector Cuper opted to give Freddy Adu a starting shot on the left midfield and relieved him after shortly over an hour of hard work in poor playing conditions. Compatriot Eddie Johnson entered as a substitute with roughly a quarter-hour left.
The ball spent much of the opening ten minutes in Aris' half as neither side managed a solid shot on the soaked field in the drizzle. Adu's work down the left side helped balance the play by the quarter hour mark.
Twenty minutes in, Xanthi saw their closest effort from Mauro Poy with an individual effort and a shot that skipped just right of Michelis Sifakis's net.
A minute later Javier Campora finally got off Aris' first shot from 25 yards out but his effort dribbled right.
Aris dodged a bullet in the 26th when a Marcelinho delivery from the left side was headed by Konstantinos Fliskas to Spyros Vallas for a point-blank shot straight at Sifakis.
Both clubs found it difficult to stay onside and Adu joined the club in the 31st minute.
Controversy struck a minute later as Adu airmailed a ball to Javito, who went down in the box with contact from Xanthi back-up keeper Sotirios Lymperopoulos, but referee Georgios Daloukas called a goal kick. The questionable call caused a little disruption with fans threatening to invade the pitch.
Adu played in active role in the first half in spite of the conditions, including a 39th minute delivery from the left wing into the box, but no one was there for the opportunity
If the hosts controlled the tempo at the opening whistle, Aris came out of the lockerroom with more gusto for the second half.
Aris produced the first chance of the second half after six minutes due to an individual effort from Sergio Koke, who streamed in, juked twice and got off a right-footer that rolled straight into Lymperopoulos.
It was Xanthi's turn in the 57th minute when Ellington won a header in the box after Sifakis mistimed his approach, but the shot fell wide left.
Adu's third appearance in the black and gold came to a close in the 67th minute, as Cuper brought on the game's talisman, new signee Camel Meriem for the 20 year-old.
Within four minutes Xanthi broke open the scoring following a dead-on header from Zdeno Štrba at Sifakis. Romanian Florin Stângǎ pounced on the deflection with an agile whirlwind kick that propelled the ball under the helpless Greek keeper.
Determined not to concede their third loss in a row, Aris scrambled to find an opening. Koke felt he was pushed just a minute later while speeding into the penalty area but Daloukas declared to play on.
Cuper made his second and final substitution bringing on Eddie Johnson for Javito in the 74th.
An offensive outburst for Aris starting in the 84th produced a close call following the second of four consecutive corners. From the right side Meriem swung in a feed that found a head in the box. Keeper Lymperopoulos nimbly lifted the bullet out of danger.
The heart-stopping finale for Aris fans came after a Meriem free kick from 40 yards out with 20 seconds left in injury time. Javier Campora headed the floater from the top of the area towards the goal but watched it smack the crossbar and land with a splash a foot in front of the open net. Aris' Darcy Dolce Neto scooped up the loose ball and shoveled it into the net before Lymperopoulos could catch up to it.
With the gutsy tie, Aris will host the replay next Wednesday, following their Sunday showdown with Ergotelis in Thessaloniki.