In the first leg of the Round of 16 of the Greek Cup, AKFC traveled to Super League 1 side Lamia and came away with a useful 1-1 draw ahead of the second leg to be played at El Paso in January.
AKFC manager Georgios Simos would field a starting lineup with an average age of just 25, and his young side would impressively rise to the occasion against their top flight opponents on Wednesday night at Lamia Municipal Stadium.
The hosts would force goalkeeper Athanasios Pantos into a good save in the 14th minute, but it was AKFC who were the more threatening side through the first half with a series of quick and purposeful counterattacks that only lacked a final ball or a finish.
Omar Santana was stellar in distributing the ball through midfield, while the direct play of Nili Perdomo and Athanasios Kostanasios helped propel the team into the final third, with physical target man Panagiotis Kynigopoulos fighting through defenders and hunting for a ball to latch on to.
AKFC’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute, when Kostanasios combined with Kynigopoulos on the right side to carve through Lamia's defense, but on the return pass Kostanasios would scuff his first-time shot in front of goal as a defender was closing him down, and the two sides would go into half-time scoreless.
After the break, AKFC raised their game further and confidently searched for the opening goal.
In the 49th minute, after central defender Konstantinos Koltsidas had dribbled out of the back in transition, Demethryus sprung forward from midfield and played a dangerous ball into the box that broke for Nili, whose powerful shot at goal looked destined to hit the target but would take a slight deflection out. Three minutes later, Kostanasios penetrated the box from the right wing to set up midfielder Orestis Tsintonis, with the 23-year-old wearing the captain’s band on the evening, but his shot was straight at the ‘keeper.
After striker Giannis Loukinas came on as a substitute, he would get a good look at goal in the 75th minute, turning from the edge of the area on the left side and bending a shot to the far post that just didn’t quite bend enough and instead sailed wide.
AKFC were still in the ascendency, and five minutes later they would finally break through from a bit of individual brilliance.
In the 80th minute, substitute left-back Stathis Vasiloudis played the ball into Demethryus, who took a magical touch to evade his marker in midfield and then dribbled through two more defenders in quick succession, suddenly shredding Lamia’s lines. As the 23-year-old Brazilian raced in on goal, he would patiently bait the ‘keeper and the last remaining defender before laying it off for Loukinas to easily slot the ball in from close range, registering his team-leading fifth goal of the season in all competitions.
It was a deserved lead for AKFC, and they had just 10 minutes to close out what would be a massive result for their hopes to reach the quarterfinals, but Lamia, despite having had few chances to speak of in the match, would manage to respond just two minutes from time, as Bolivian midfielder Danny Bejarano got on the end of a cross from Lithuania international Vykintas Slivka to head in the equalizer.
With four minutes of stoppage time, AKFC would come agonizingly close to a winner in the 94th minute when Kynigopoulos ripped a curling shot on goal from the top of the box only to see Lamia ‘keeper Athanasios Garavelis tip the shot off the inside of the post.
The second leg at El Paso is set to be scheduled between 10 and 12 January 2023.
Athens Kallithea (4-3-3): Pantos, Manthatis, Koltsidas, Evaggelou, Kainourgios (70’ Vasiloudis), Santana (54’ Bouloulis), Demethryus (89’ Laskaris), Tsintonis (89’ Chatzidimpas), Nili, Kynigopoulos, Kostanasios (70’ Loukinas)