30th August, 2018
It must have been a very sorrowful night for many fans in Greece. The reason of course is not far-fetched. Their darling team, PAOK let them down at their own backyard by failing to take advantage of 1-1 draw away to Benfica to qualify for the group stage of the Champions’ League Competition.
Instead, the team playing at home in front of their own teeming supporters lost scandalously by 1-4 to the visiting side, Benfica Lisbon.
The game had started on a very bright note for the Greek team as Aleksandar Prijovic scored their first goal as early as in the 13th minute of the game sending the home fans into wild jubilation as they started to dream of a comprehensive victory over the visitors.
But then, the whole game turned on its head to the utmost disbelief of everyone who is not Portuguese in the stadium. First to shock the home team and fans was Benfica’s captain himself.
Like a good leader, he scored the much needed equaliser for his team with a powerful shot in the 20th minute. Then came the second goal for the visiting team through a penalty converted by Eduardo Salvio in the 26th minute.
To worsen matters for the home team as they were struggling to get an equaliser, a third goal came for the visitors as Pizzi found the net in the 39th minute. The “final nail on the coffin” came in the 49th minute as Eduardo Salvio converted his second penalty kick of the match to send PAOK crashing out of the competition in a scandalous manner.
A similar scenario played itself out in Austria as Salzburg seemed set to join other teams in the competition proper when Munas Dabbur scored their first goal on the stroke of halftime and added a second one just three minutes into the second half through a penalty kick to give them a 2-0 lead on the night and overall against Red Star. The penalty had been awarded after Vujadin Savic fouled Hannes Wolf in the box. But then came a scenario very similar to the one that took place in Greece.
The match suddenly turned a corner. One that the fans of Salzburg will want to forget as quickly as possible. Red Star “came back from the dead.”
First came Ben Nabouhane who was able to convert Milos Degenek’s right-wing cross at the back post in the 65th minute to give his team the much needed hope in the game. That was then followed by the equaliser just a minute later by Milos Degenek to send the visitors into the “driver’s seat”.
What followed next was a series of frantic efforts by the home team to redeem the situation but all their efforts were thwarted by a solid opposition by the visitors who qualified for the Champions’ League Group stage on away goals rule.
It was a completely different ball game in the Netherlands as PSV Eindhoven took their opponents BATE “to the cleaners” in the return leg of their match. The first leg had ended in a 3-2 in their favour away from home.
Just like it happened with Benfica, the captain of PSV Eindhoven was very instrumental to his side’s win in this game. His name is Luuk de Jong. He not only provided the assist for his side’s first goal scored by Steven Bergwijn in the 14th minute, but also scored a goal himself through a fine header from Jorrit Hendrix’s cross in the 36th minute of the game.
The third goal came courtesy Hirving Lozano in the 62nd minute with a right-footed effort that beat Denis Scherbitski in goal for the visitors. Hirving Lozano had earlier on in the game struck the bar with a free-kick.
PSV won the match 3-0 and 6-2 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage of the Champions’ League Competition.