PAOK, made of steel, “bent” Panathinaikos in Agios Thomas and are aiming for the final!


PAOK passed through Agios Thomas and “flirts” with the Volley League finals! The “two-headed man of the north” did not falter even when Panathinaikos turned the match around, he led the match to the tie break where he prevailed (3-2 sets) taking the upper hand for his return to the finals and sending Panathinaikos to the… ropes with the series now at 2-0!

Sweeping performance by Bram Van de Dries and Alexandros Raptis for PAOK, Hernandez fought almost alone for Panathinaikos.

Terrible swings in the match with Josko Milekonski’s side taking advantage of the greens’ poor momentum in the first set, the champions coming back in the next two with the formidable Cuban giving a recital over the net and the visitors reacting and.. .Olympia kept his cool in the next two and finally took the win.

The match

The derby started with Panathinaikos leading with Hernandez and PAOK building an important 4-0 run that put them ahead 4-1 with two aces from Voulkidis. The PAOK captain continued to pound the Panathinaikos reception with his serve, at the moment when Van de Dries and Walsh increased the difference to +7 for “the bicep of the north” (5-12). The “greens” found an answer with Hernandez and Rangel, reducing the score to five, but Van de Dries’ crescendo continued with the result that PAOK remained at a safe distance in front of the score (12-20). From that point onwards, the Panathinaikos players “went out” with the result that Skendraou with a block and Raptis with an ace ended the set with an emphatic 12-25, for PAOK’s 0-1.

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The start of the second set was different with Franko and the organized block giving a seven-point lead to Panathinaikos (9-2). The “greens” got several points from a block out with Franco and Hernandez opening the gap for 14-7. PAOK got two consecutive points with Rapti and Van de Dries but Hernandez’s ace forced Josko Milekonski to call a timeout with the score at 17-9. The Greens continued to improve their block with Hernandez and Rangel winning loose points to open the gap to 10 with the set ending after a Rapti misfire made it 25-16 for 1- 1 of the hosts.

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Unlike the previous two, the third it was balanced to draw, with PAOK making service errors, with Raptis and Voulkidis keeping Panathinaikos alive, while then Rangel and Hernandez made it 10-8 forcing Milekonski to call a timeout. With the return to the taraflex, PAOK managed to make a small run, equalizing again with the two teams keeping pace with the score. Kovar and Hernandez got the points by beating the foul on two blocking occasions to make it 15-13 forcing the North Macedonian coach to call another timeout. The follow-up found Panathinaikos cooler with Frago creating problems in the reception of PAOK with his serve, leading Panathinaikos to +4 (20-16) for the first time and PAOK reacting with two consecutive points by Van de Dries for the 20-18. Panathinaikos reacted and managed to get four chances for the set with Kovar making it 24-20 with an ace. Van de Dries and the transfer of the ball by Fragos brought PAOK to -2, while the Greek winger with a misdirected attack put the “double-headed of the north” in the role of a contender again with a misplaced hit, with 24-23 becoming a “brunch” for Dimitris Andreopoulos who called a time out. In the return, Hernandez was the one who ended the set with 25-23, putting Panathinaikos in a leading role for 2-1.

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PAOK entered the fourth set determined to equalize and managed to take a 9-5 lead with Van de Dries and Scentrau. Panathinaikos was slowly “gnawing away” at the difference with Hernandez’s ace bringing the match to -1 for 10-11. The Cuban continued his crescendo by scoring consecutive points and keeping Panathinaikos within striking distance. The eye of the multi-experienced Hernandez “shined” as a result of which his last two attacks yielded equalizing points for Panathinaikos (17-17). In fact, the “greens” managed to take a 20-19 lead with an ace by Achillea Basis. Despite this, PAOK with leader Scentrau and… wildcard Yorna managed to win the set 21-15 sending the match to a tie break.

There, PAOK showed tremendous composure, with Raptis proving to be a key player for Josko Milekonski, as in three attacks he managed to “hurt” the block of his former team. The “two-header of the north” broke away after 6-6 and held on to the lead to take the win that put him 2-0 up in the series.

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The sets: 12-25, 25-16, 25-23, 21-25, 13-15

Here are the match stats

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