Ten-man PAOK bows out of Europe with loss at Benfica

By George Georgakopoulos

PAOK lost 3-0 at Benfica on Thursday and went out of the Europa League with a 4-0 aggregate score as it failed to take its chance to balance the tie when it could.

It was always difficult to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg in Thessaloniki, and playing the last 20 minutes with a man less did not help.

Yet with the game still at 0-0, PAOK missed a glorious chance in the 53rd minute as Hedwiges Maduro narrowly failed to connect with a canny header from the right by Costas Katsouranis, with the goal at his mercy.

Although PAOK did little in attack, threatening the host just once in the first half, it frustrated Benfica’s strikers thanks to a good showing by its defense, while its keeper Panayiotis Glykos excelled on the 33rd minute with a stunning save from a deflected free-kick.

PAOK held firm when the game was 11 against 11, but the red card shown to Katsouranis in the 68th minute opened the floodgates for Benfica.

From the free-kick after the straight red to the PAOK captain, Benfica’s Nico Gaitan put the ball directly into the net with ease, lifting it over the wall on the 70th minute.

Then Maduro conceded a penalty that Rodrigo Lima converted on the 80th, before Lazar Markovic made it 3-0 with nine minutes left to play.

The best moment of the game though was when Katsouranis walked out of the pitch after being shown the red card to a very warm applause by all Benfica fans for his services to the Lisbon side from 2006 to 2009. He clapped his hands too in acknowledgement of the tribute the “Benfiquistas” paid to him.