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PAOK Win Thessaloniki Battle

The manner in which the winner was scored reflected what was an unspectacular match, with both sides struggling to consistently break each other down. The home side did have the better chances, however, particularly through Muslimovic and captain Pantelis Konstantinidis in the first-half. But it was Chilean defender Contreras' 68th-minute effort that condemned the God of War to their third-straight league defeat.

Derby matches between Greece's 'Big Three' Athenian rivals have often attracted the majority of attention in recent times, but any doubts about the importance of this Thessaloniki derby were immediately dispelled as PAOK supporters packed the Toumba Stadium and offered their typically partisan support to Fernando Santos' men.

In fact, it took barely four minutes for the match to be halted due to crowd disturbances, with Aris captain Sergio Koke refusing to take an early corner with sections of the crowd throwing assorted projectiles onto the pitch.

It took over five minutes and the diplomatic skills of on-loan Panathinaikos defender Filipos Darlas to calm supporters down so that the match could be resumed, but it wasn't before the linesman on the right side received some minor medical assistance after apparently being struck in the leg by a projectile.

In terms of the actual football being played, it was PAOK who had the first attempt on goal when Pablo Garcia's free-kick from the right was met by the head of Vieirinha. The 22-year-old flicked the ball towards the far post, where Kelemen produced an athletic save, extending himself fully and catching the ball before it could sneak in.

Aris were attempting to impose their characteristically quick ball-movement on the game but it was PAOK who were creating the goalscoring opportunities and in the 29th minute, Zlatan Muslimovic should have opened the scoring for the Dikefalos tou Vorra.

Uruguay international Pablo Garcia lifted the ball into the penalty area, where it was superbly chased down by Konstantinidis. The captain slid in and hooked the ball back to Muslimovic before it crossed the by-line and the former Atalanta man only managed to turn the ball narrowly past Kelemen's right post from close range.

Vieirinha then saw his effort from outside the box slide past the left upright five minutes later, before another excellent chance was wasted by the home side, this time through club veteran Konstantinidis.

Again it was Garcia at the heart of the move in midfield, chipping the ball delicately to Muslimovic on the edge of the area, where the Bosnia and Herzegovina international cushioned his header into the path of his captain. From the left side of the area and virtually under no pressure, Konstantinidis saw his half-volley flash past the far post.

It took Aris 42 minutes to register their first discernible attempt at goal, when the lively Javito managed to hold the ball up on the right side of the penalty area. Full-back Neto burst onto the ball, accelerating into the area before firing a low shot into the side-netting.

Aris' Spanish midfielder Vitolo was fortunate to still be on the pitch just moments later, when he received only a yellow card after tackling Portuguese youth international Vieirinha from behind and forcing the midfielder out of the remainder of the match with injury.

The six minutes of added time in the first half epitomised a match that was threatening to be disrupted by petty fouls and ill-discipline, and such fears were largely realised in a second half where the visitors mustered only one shot on target.

Contreras' 68th minute 'strike' was the highlight of the second 45 minutes, as he used his stomach to deflect Muslimovic's driven free-kick past a wrong-footed Kelemen in the Aris goal.

The international was troubling Aris with his movement off the ball, just as he had done to AEK Athens in the second round.

With six minutes remaining he looked to latch onto a ball from inside the PAOK half and beating the offside trap, he forced Kelemen to come out and collect the ball. The Slovakian 'keeper accidentally handled it outside of his own area but remained on the pitch to see Garcia's resulting free-kick blasted well over the crossbar.

Substitute Thiago Gentil cut inside the former AC Milan man moments later before seeing his weak effort roll into the arms of Chalkias from outside the area – it was the God of War's first shot on goal during a frustrating second half.

PAOK then survived a nervy final few minutes to hold onto their third victory of the season, taking them to equal first with Olympiakos on the Greek Super League ladder, with a total of 10 points.


PAOK 1 (68' Contreras)
Aris 0



Line-ups:

PAOK: Chalkias, Konstantinidis, Garcia, Darlas (90+2' Arambatzis), Muslimovic, Malezas, Contreras, Vieirinha (45+6' Lakis), Ivic (82' Bizera), Veron, Sznaucner

Aris: Kelemen, Neto, Lembo, Garcia, Koke, Javito, Roberge, Vitolo, Jahic (73' Thiago), Battion (79' Calvo), Delorte (79' Sanson)



Chris Paraskevas