An injury-time header by 17-year-old debutant Stelios Pozoglou was enough to extend PAOK’s unbeaten run in Europe to 15 games, though not to give it the top spot in its Europa League group, as the 2-2 home draw with AZ Alkmaar on Thursday meant that the Dutch have won the group and PAOK has qualified to the last 32 of the competition as a runner-up.
That will likely entail a more difficult opponent in Monday’s draw at Nyon, given that PAOK may face one of the teams to have entered the tournament after finishing third in their Champions League group.
PAOK coach Huub Stevens chose to rest Dimitris Salpingidis on the night and PAOK was often short of any ideas in attack, against an AZ that fielded mostly substitutes as its manager, Dick Advocaat also wanted to rest his top-pick players.
Following a balanced – if quiet – first half-hour, AZ opened the score with a great individual effort. Thomas Lam swung inside the PAOK area in the 31st minute to send a shot against the upright and into the net, becoming another man to score in his Europa League debut on the night.
Yet just six minutes later Stelios Kitsiou earned PAOK a penalty, which Spaniard Lucas took coolly to equalize (1-1).
The second half was more of the same until Costin Lazar needlessly handled the ball in the area in the 70th minute to concede a penalty, that Donny Gorter converted a minute later for AZ.
After that PAOK tried to equalize, but could only pose a threat through set pieces, and they were not enough to beat Belgian keeper Yves De Winter who had a good night on the visitors’ goal. Yet even he had no response to the Pozoglou header in the last minute of injury time, after a cross from the right by man-of-the-match Lucas.