Desperate to keep themselves in the promotion race, AKFC hit the road for Kalamata and produced a dramatic 0-1 victory through a late strike from Panagiotis Kynigopoulos on Saturday afternoon in Matchday 26 of the 2022/23 Super League 2 season.
The result temporarily brings AKFC to within two points of first-place Kifisia, who have a game in hand and will play away to Panachaiki on Monday 22 May.
It was a tense and physical battle straight from the kick-off, and AKFC would find it difficult to move the ball forward and get a look at goal. On their lone chance of the first half, Orestis Tsintonis headed in a right-wing cross from Konstantinos Bouloulis, but the goal was controversially canceled out by referee Andreas Vlachos, who claimed Giannis Loukinas had pushed a defender in the box, and the two sides would go into half-time scoreless.
Early into the second half, AKFC would get a boost from their bench. In the 56th minute, manager Georgios Simos made a triple substitution to bring on Demethryus and Adil Nabi in attack and Omar Santana in midfield, with Javier Matilla coming into midfield soon after. Both Santana and Matilla had not started for the second consecutive week due to injury, but the Spanish duo would tough it out in a critical moment and helped shift the momentum.
AKFC were gradually taking control of the match, but had still not created a clear chance with a quarter of an hour remaining, until the 76th minute when central-back Spyros Vlachos sent a pinpoint pass over the top of the defense and into the path of Kynigopoulos, who let the ball take a bounce and then ripped a volley past the ‘keeper to break the deadlock.
Kynigopoulos has played more minutes that any AKFC player this season, and as fatigue may have been setting into his legs, he hadn’t found the back of the net for the last eight rounds. But when it counted most, the 26-year-old striker took a half-chance and struck one of the biggest goals of the season.
Prior to the goal, AKFC ‘keeper Panagiotis Vosniadis was called upon to make three big saves as the match had opened up, and with the hosts in no mood to give in, it took a gritty team effort to close out the result, but with some tough defending and poised time management, they would secure all three points.
With four matches left in the season, AKFC will return to action on Saturday 27 May to host Apollon Smyrnis at Grigoris Lamprakis Stadium in Matchday 27.
Athens Kallithea (4-2-3-1): Vosniadis, Vasiloudis, Kyrgias, Vlachos, Kainourgios, Babis (65’ Matilla), Bouloulis (56’ Santana), Kynigopoulos, Tsintonis (56’ Nabi) (90' Evangelou), Ioannidis (56’ Demethryus), Loukinas