Supersub Dimitris Salpingidis denied AZ Alkmaar victory in the Netherlands on Thursday, as PAOK snatched a 1-1 draw in injury time in the game for the Europa League group stage.
The Greeks were a good match for their hosts for the first hour of the game, despite being prone to defensive errors, but the pressure that AZ exercised in the last third of the match resulted in a late goal that even goalkeeper Jacobo, PAOK’s best player on the night, could do nothing about. Yet one minute before the final whistle Salpingidis made amends to silence the home crowd.
The Greeks deserved a point from the game as they saw luck turn its back on them twice in the course of the game – the first one being when Alexandros Tziolis saw his volley bounce off the crossbar on the 8th minute.
The Greek team survived a couple of good chances the hosts had in the first half, but enjoyed a good share of ball possession, boosted by the 2,000 fans of its own at the stands.
The goalframe denied PAOK for a second time on the 51 minute when the cross from the left by Giorgos Tzavellas picked Lucas Perez Martinez, but the Spaniard’s header struck the bar.
Still, it was PAOK’s crossbar that denied Mattias Johansson 19 minutes from time after the Swedish striker’s glancing header.
That formed part of the home side’s pounding of the visitors’ defense in the last 30 minutes of the game, which led to AZ’s goal on the 81st minute: A cross into the box by Willie Overtoom found Jeffrey Gouweleeuw who beat the offside trap and slotted the ball past Jacobo from close range.
Salpingidis and Miguel Vitor missed a glorious double chance two minutes from the end, but just as PAOK was contemplating the specter of defeat, the game proved to have a sting in the tail: A cross into the box was poorly cleared by an Alkmaar defender, the ball fell to an unmarked Salpingidis and the Greece striker pounced the ball into the net in the third minute of time added on.
This was the second time PAOK has changed the fate of a game in as many Europa League matches so far this season, after scoring the winner over Shakhter in the 92nd minute.
PAOK now leads its group with four points from two games and will next face Maccabi Haifa on October 24.