PAOK does it the hard away against Maccabi Haifa

PAOK is alone at the top of its Europa League table after coming from 2-0 down to beat visiting Maccabi Haifa 3-2 on Thursday.

A very eventful first half at the Toumba stadium saw four goals and two missed penalties as both defenses were unable to live up to their duties, but it was a Dimitris Salpingidis second-half goal that decided the game in PAOK’s favor.

The Greeks were the favorites going into this game, but Maccabi struck twice in the first half-hour through goals by Dino Ndlovu and Eyal Golasa in the 13th and 21st minute respectively.

Urged on by its 25,000 fans at the stands, which also hosted coach Huub Stevens who served a touchline ban, PAOK raised its game and quickly covered the deficit before half-time.

Portuguese defender Miguel Vitor made it 2-1 in the 35th and two minutes later PAOK earned a penalty. Miroslav Stoch stepped up to take it but Maccabi’s Serb keeper Bojan Saranov saved it. However in the ensuing corner Sotiris Ninis rose higher to head the ball in for 2-2 in the 39th.

Salpingidis earned PAOK another penalty one minute from half-time, Stoch took that one too, only to get beaten for a second time within 10 minutes by Saranov.

The Serb keeper could do nothing, though, to spare his team from conceding a third goal when Salpingidis latched on to a cross from the left to slot the ball past Saranov from the tightest of angles.

The Greeks held to to a precious victory despite a number of chances Maccabi had to equalize, and reached seven points from three games, two more than AZ Alkmaar in second.

In two weeks’ time PAOK will travel to Israel to face Maccabi again.