Former goalkeeper for the Russian national team, Zenit and Tula Arsenal Lodygin took a penalty in a game that could have become a championship for his team. However, Panathinaikos, for which Yuri plays, lost the fight for the gold medals at the end of the season. The title went to AEK Athens.
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Panathinaikos has not become the Greek champion for a long time – 13 years. Although probably many still remember the cool Greens team, which reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League in the early 2000s. And in the mid-1990s, there was usually a semifinal of the Champions League. . AEK won the last title in five years. So, the two Athenian clubs were fighting for a trophy that they had seriously lost.
The first part of the current championship was won by Panathinaikos, which, after the results of two rounds, led AEK by two points. Then the clubs were divided into two groups: the 6 best teams played each other in the championship. Two more rounds before the finish, the competitors were even: the “green” and “yellow-black” each had 77 points. However, the end turned out to be disastrous for Lodygin and his comrades.
In the penultimate round, Panathinaikos played Olympiakos. This is traditionally a big match in Greece, special attention was paid to it. The key episode of the match happened when the teams played for about an hour. In the Olympiacos penalty area, the hosts’ defender Ndoya collided with the attacking guests Shporar. The episode is very difficult for the judges, but the “greens”, of course, demanded a penalty. The referees have yet to designate an 11-meter kick, and after another 10 minutes, Moldovan defender Ryabchuk scored a game-winning goal for Olympiakos.
Panathinaikos reacted to the loss with a statement on the subject of referee work: “Another referee decision against us this year. The game was turned upside down by not sanctioning a penalty after Sporar’s fall in the 57th minute. The injustice towards us has become a routine.
Before the battle with Olympiacos, Panathinaikos had big problems with the team – 17 (!) People were infected with the coronavirus at once. On the eve of the match, only nine players participated in training. However, the match was not canceled or rescheduled. The Panathinaikos players were isolated so they wouldn’t infect anyone, and before the opening whistle, the players (with the exception of the captains) did not shake hands. In addition, we play in front of the empty stands, as in the peak of the covid. However, for another reason: Olympiacos was punished with a match without spectators.
Panathinaikos head coach Ivan Jovanovic said after the game: “I was forced to choose between the health of my players and their dreams. Either you put others to play, or you let go of those who wanted this championship the most. And I’ve never felt worse.”
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Meanwhile, AEK seized their chance to separate themselves from the competitor by three points – they defeated Aris on the road (2: 1).
Lodygin did not play for Olympiacos. The fact is that Yuri is only the second goalkeeper for Panathinaikos. In the summer of 2022, our legionnaire moved from PAS Ioannina to the Athens Club as a free agent, won the award for the best goalkeeper of the Greek Championship at the end of the last season and delivered the most cracks. Lodygin rejected 72% of the shots on goal and did not miss in 14 games. However, “Panathinaikos” already had a reliable “first number” – the Italian Alberto Brignoli. He just didn’t give a reason to sit on the reservation. Yuri, according to him, understood that Brignoli would start the season, but hoped to wait for the opportunity from him.
But this season, the Italian has become a real wall. Brignoli has saved 84% of his shots and is the leader in this indicator in the Greek league. Therefore, Lodygin was content with rare appearances on the field: he spent all four of the team’s matches in the Greek Cup (two “nil”, conceded three goals), and in April 2023 he finally played in the championship – with Aris. (1:0) .
Photo: From Lodygin’s personal archive
But in the last round, coach Jovanovich again put Lodygin in the starting lineup. Either something was wrong with Brignoli, who was on the bench, or Panathinaikos no longer believed in the possibility of winning the title. Although the theoretical chances remained: the “greens” needed to win in their field “Aris” and wait for a home defeat by AEK from “Volos”.
Panathinaikos didn’t even do what they should have done themselves. Although Jovanovic’s team took the lead already in the sixth minute. But at the end of the half-hour game, the guests recovered: Lodygin was punched by striker Iturbe, known for his performances with Roma and the Paraguayan team. Juan burst into the penalty area and shot into the far corner, with no chance for our goalkeeper. In this episode, a double fault on the part of Juan was suspected (he touched and grabbed an opponent with his hand), but the referee, after seeing the replay, ratified his decision to count the goal.
Also, Panathinaikos could completely upset the fans if they end the season with a loss at home. A quarter of an hour before the end, the Greens were awarded a penalty for a foul by ex-soldier Magnusson. But Lodygin parried the blow from the “point”. Striking from 11 meters, Aris striker Abubakar Kamara sent the ball into the goalkeeper’s right corner at medium height, and Yuriy saved on a beautiful leap. The match ended in a draw – 1:1. AEK, on the other hand, gave a true champion game in the final round, defeating Volos with a score of 4:0.
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Along with Lodygin, two former CSKA defenders, Magnusson and Charlia, ran out of gold at the end of the season. Both, unlike the Russian, are the main players for Panathinaikos. The Icelander has 24 games and one goal in the Greek championship, while the Croatian has 21 games and two assists.
However, among the gold owners is a former soldier. The championship at AEK was won by the Swiss Zuber (28 games, eight goals and two assists). In addition to the midfielder, two former Akhmat players won the trophy with the “yellow-blacks”: Iranian defender Mohammadi (13 caps, one assist) and Polish midfielder Szymanski (30 caps, two goals scored). By the way, it was Zuber’s goal that won the decisive match with Volos.
Lodygin, 32, will have a contract with Panathinaikos for one more year. With a successful combination of circumstances for Yuri, in autumn he will be able to play in the Champions League. The greens will start in the Champions League from the third qualifying round.