We began the game tonight at a reasonable (if not too fast) pace and the opening phase itself was mainly interested in gaining control of the ball and putting some form of possession into the game. We didn't have to wait for long for our chances to arrive and Giannis Papadopoulos was involved with winning a lot of these early clashes and getting the ball forward to the attackers and the wingers (personally missing on a chance at goal in the 5th minute).
Panionios were also keen not be the underdogs in this game and the front two combination of Balaban and Sito Riera caused us some problems in the early stages of the game however apart from these two players, Panionios were not capable of controlling the ball across the centre of midfield. With only two of the Panionios players performing well, it was a reasonably easy task for Mellberg and Avraam Papadopoulos to close down their forwards and restrict any chances that they could make. Mellberg did make one mistake in the first half with a botched clearance which fell directly to a Panionios forward although Avraam managed to intercept and clear the ball properly before any damage could be done.
Generally though, all of our play in the first half (with a couple of exceptions) was taken with trying to create down their defence and feeding the ball forwards. Unfortunately Panionios were faring much better at holding back our players and breaking up our attacks although they couldn't possibly continue with this style of play for too long as we would inevitably break through and get a proper effort on their goal. Some of our playmakers such as Fuster and Fetfatzidis were being tightly marked and they were having some trouble in breaking clear of their markers and either making any chances or creating any through passes.
Eventually though we did manage to get the first of tonights goals when a long pass fell to one of two Panionios defenders standing further back up the field. Mirallas managed to take on and beat the defender, winning the ball and then sprinting up the pitch to the top left of the box before firing a shot with his left foot which almost tore the net when it hit. The keeper never had a chance of saving the ball.
After the game had been restarted, the game seemed to start to open up for us as Panionios started to place less emphasis on defence and more on trying to control the midfield. They totally failed in controlling the midfield but with them pushing further up the field, it allowed us more chances on their goal with Mirallas and Riera both having closely missed chances on goal.
In fact, we didn't score any more goals in the first half. Most of the half had been taken with just trying to grind down their defence and it wasn't until the last 6-7 minutes of the half that we were able to make many chances at all. However, once the opening goal had been scored we had started to make more chances.
With the second half, we started gaining some dominance in the midfield and controlling the game. In fact, both of our wingbacks were starting to control the ball in the centre of the pitch as they were under so little pressure and were available to drift further upfield. With the new control of the game, we didn't have to wait long for a second goal.
In this goal, Giannis Papadopoulos crossed a free kick close to the right hand corner but seemed to hit it too hard and it passed over the goalmouth and to the far edge of the box. Here, Bravo took a wild swipe at the ball as it landed but mis-hit and it bouced off the ground towards the goal. Right at the goal, Torosidis had a second shot at the bouncing ball, hit it perfectly this time and smashed it into the net from about 2 metres out to double our lead.
The second goal didn't seem to wake Panionios up from their stupor and we were still performing the attacking in the game with Fetfatzidis, Bravo, Fuster and Mirallas all getting involved with the attacking plays. Panionios managed to win their first corner of the game in the 55th minute but they couldn't do anything in this match at all. We were simply dominating all over the pitch by now although Panionios did have some minor efforts and playing the ball up the pitch. Our defence easily cleaned up any chances that they made with Avraam and Modesto (a 61st minute substitution for Mellberg) capable of cleaning up anything that they could throw at us.
With the game continuing in this vein, it seemed inevitable that we would score more goals and we did with a third goal in the 68th minute. In this attack, we had Albert Riera moving up the pitch driving onto the three defenders in front of him. Just as he was about to meet the defenders, he played the ball forwards and left past the defending line and into the path of Mirallas who was making a run from deep on the left hand side. Mirallas picked up on the ball before placing a low shot past the oncoming keeper.
We made our second substitution a couple of minutes later with Marko Pantelic replacing the disappointing Fuster (and Mirallas displacing further down the pitch and into the gap). This substitution was also followed by our final change with Mirallas coming off for Kristian Nemeth. (Mirallas leaving to clear applause and cheers from the fans).
Just one minute after Nemeth's introduction, he basically won us the fourth goal of the match! In this, Nemeth had the ball, broke through the defence and then tried to knock the ball around the keeper. Just as he did this though, the Keeper tripped him up in the box with his hands and would have given a clear penalty. However the ball continued to roll forwards and into the path of Marko Pantelic who could easily knock it into the net for 4-0!.
This was essentially it for the game, we could afford to now hold onto the ball whilst Panionios were just too shocked or downcast to do anything for themselves. A fifth goal finished the game off in the third minute of extra time with Riera thumping the ball into the net after receiving an assist from Fetfatzidis. An outstanding victory in a game where we dominated after scoring the opening goal. The fans chant Ernesto Valverde's name as the team leaves the pitch.