SL2 22/23: Athens Kallithea 3-3 Kifisia

In a wild top-of-the-table derby at El Paso, AKFC found themselves 1-3 down and facing the prospect of a loss that could have effectively ended the promotion race, but they would mount a dramatic comeback capped by Demethryus’ 93rd minute equalizer to rescue a point in a 3-3 draw with Kifisia in Matchday 19 of the 2022/23 Super League 2 season.

The match would start with controversy, when Kifisia were awarded a penalty for an alleged handball in the box from defender Konstantinos Koltsidas. It seemed a harsh decision as replays would show no definitive evidence of contact with the ball, but Michalis Kouiroukidis would convert from the spot to give the visitors the lead in the 8th minute.

Soon after, AKFC were hit with another setback. Just minutes before the opening goal, Koltsidas had gone down awkwardly in getting tangled up with Kouiroukidis, and though he would soldier on for another 20 minutes or so, he would have to leave the pitch in the 28th minute with what was ultimately understood to be a torn ACL in his left knee.

Incredibly, in two matches with Kifisia this season, AKFC had now suffered two season-ending injuries early into each match, after left-back Leonida Rossi fractured his kneecap in the 5th minute of the reverse fixture back in November.

In the 36th minute, AKFC had a penalty claim of their own when Nikos Kainourgios’ left-wing cross went off the hand of Kifisia midfielder Damian Gjini in the box, but referee Dimitrios Maloutas waved it off.

AKFC were in the ascendancy, though, and they would finally level the match in the 37th minute, when veteran midfielder Omar Santana headed in a corner kick delivered by his compatriot Javier Matilla.

Just three minute later, AKFC should have taken the lead when lively right-back Abdul Rahman Weiss penetrated the box and pulled the ball back for striker Panagiotis Kynigopoulos, but his first-time shot was stopped by ‘keeper Alexandros Anagnostopoulos.

The goal had brought a wave of momentum and Kifisia were pinned back in their own end, but they would be saved by the half-time whistle with the score tied at 1-1.

After the break, AKFC were keen to pick up where they left off, but just five minutes into the second half, captain Michalis Kyrgias would make a rare individual mistake at the back on a clearing attempt, as the ball got behind him with Kifisia's Panagiotis Pritsas all alone in front of goal to sweep it home.

As they quickly looked to get back on level terms, AKFC had another penalty claim in the 63rd minute when Kynigopoulos leapt to meet a cross and was knocked over from behind by defender Kyriakos Mazoulouxidis, but Maloutas ignored the contact and played on.

Three minutes later, AKFC took another heavy blow, as Kifisia striker Andrews Tetteh broke away on a counter down the right flank, evaded defender Spyros Vlachos with a cut to the inside, and applied a magnificent curling finish with the left foot into the top corner at the far post, giving his side a shock 1-3 lead with less than a half hour to play.

In a match AKFC had largely controlled with more than 70 percent possession, it was an inexplicable deficit, as El Paso watched in disbelief.

With the season on the line, AKFC had to quickly regroup. Demethryus had already stepped on moments before the third goal, and in the 75th minute manager Georgios Simos sacrificed a midfielder to introduce a second striker in Giannis Loukinas, adjusting the team’s shape from 3-5-1-1 to 3-4-1-2, which brought mounting pressure on Kifisia’s goal.

In the 87th minute, AKFC finally pulled one back. The move started with Santana intercepting the ball in midfield and playing into the box for Loukinas, who had his back goal and did brilliantly to control and lay it off for Matilla. When Matilla’s shot was deflected skywards, Weiss was there to take it out of the air and volley it in.

There was still time to salvage a result, and AKFC would find the equalizer in the 93rd minute. When Loukinas stripped the ball in midfield, the counter was on. Weiss found the ball on the right flank and switched the play, pinging it over to the left side for Kainourgios, who let it bounce and volleyed into Loukinas in front of goal, and though he was knocked over by a defender, Demethryus arrived at the back post to head home off the bounce, as El Paso erupted.

Not satisfied with just a point, AKFC continued to attack and nearly grabbed all three points. In the 95th minute, Demethryus split three defenders on the left flank and his pullback nearly connected with Loukinas who was ready to pounce. The ensuing corner kicked would be their last chance, but Matilla’s delivery was cleared away and the final whistle blew on a rollercoaster 3-3 draw.

The result keeps AKFC in second place and right on the heels of Kifisia in the title race, seven points back with an extra game in hand over the final 11 rounds of the season.

Athens Kallithea (3-5-1-1): Vosniadis, Koltsidas (28’ Rentzas), Kyrgias, Vlachos, Weiss, Bouloulis (64’ Demethryus), Matilla, Santana, Kainourgios, Nabi (75’ Loukinas), Kynigopoulos