CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Thursday, May 20, 2010
The Martians fended off two equalizers to claim another derby victory at home and finish the Europa League playoffs in third.
Freddy Adu got the start and registered 82 minutes in front of his former Benfica boss and current PAOK coach Fernando Santos.
The visitors found themselves in the hole within 12 minutes following an own-goal from Stelios Malezas. Coming off a Javito cross from the right side, the Greek defender attempted a headed clearance but instead found the back of teammate Dario Krešić's net.
PAOK made up for the mistake in controversial fashion ten minutes later with an equalizer from Athanasios Papazoglou. The Portuguese midfielder delivered a cross from the left side for the Greek striker, who, although visibly offsides, headed forward over Michalis Sifakis for the equalizer.
Another ten minutes later, the hosts retook the lead thanks to a fine connection between Camel Meriem and Javito. Meeting up with a long pass from the Frenchman, Javito slipped through the PAOK backline onsides and chipped over Krešić for the 2-1 lead.
Determined to pay honor to parting head coach Fernando Santos with a win, PAOK nabbed another equalizer just before the half following an errant handball from Aris defender Ronaldo Guiaro.
After Referee Giorgios Stathopoulos pointed to the spot, the Italian Bruno Cirillo stepped up to blast the equalizer into the roof of the net.
Disturbances outside the stadium caused a delay of game a dozen minutes into the second half, as tear gas wafted onto the field and brought players to their knees.
Once play resumed, a penalty kick was the culprit for the eventual winner, as Portuguese striker Edinho handled the ball in the box while fending off pressure from Adu. Javier Campora converted the winner with ease for the 3-2 lead.
Freddy Adu's evening and season came to an end in the 82nd minute when coach Hector Cuper replaced him with Toni Calvo.
With the 3-2 victory, Aris seal their second defeat of PAOK at home this season, along with their 2-0 win last March.
More good news came following AEK Athens' 2-1 win over Olympiacos, meaning Aris finish in third in the playoff table with eight points.
The Black and Golds will enter Europa League's Third Qualifying Round on July 29th, and learn their opponent after the July 16th draw.