PAOK earns spot in Europa League play-offs

By George Georgakopoulos

PAOK earned the second spot in the Super League play-offs that leads to the playoffs of the Europa League in August as it beat Panathinaikos 1-0 on Saturday in the last round of games of the mini-league.

In a very entertaining game played behind closed doors at Toumba, the two teams faced off for the fifth time this season, and had plenty of goal-scoring occasions in the course of the 90 minutes.

However it was only Zvonimir Vukic that found the target for PAOK on the 57th minute with a powerful shot from inside the box to beat Panathinaikos keeper Stefanos Kotsolis.

In Saturday’s other game, Atromitos defeated Asteras Tripolis 3-1 to finish above its opponent on a superior head-to-head record and snatch the ticket to the third qualifying round of next season’s Europa League. Asteras instead will have to settle with starting from the second qualifying round in mid-July.

All four goals at Peristeri came in the first half, with Stefano Napoleoni giving a 2-0 lead to Atromitos, Pablo De Blasis halving the deficit for Asteras and Sokratis Fytanidis scoring the third goal for the host.

As a result Panathinaikos has finished first in the play-offs – and second overall in the Super League – with 11 points and is preparing to represent Greece in the Champions League qualifiers, PAOK ended up with 10 points, while Atromitos and Asteras Tripolis had seven points each.

The end of the play-offs has brought the Super League season to an end, with the only affair still pending being the relegation play-off between Xanthi and the team to finish third in the second division.