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AEK Athens coach Ouzounidis quits after draw against PAOK

February 5, 2019
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FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018, file photo AEK Athens coach Marinos Ouzounidis reacts during a Greek Super League soccer match against Olympiakos at Olympic stadium in Athens. Ouzounidis has resigned from the defending Greek champions on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 after an inconsistent run of results has seen them slip 14 points behind leaders PAOK. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, File)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — AEK Athens coach Marinos Ouzounidis resigned Tuesday with the defending Greek champions 14 points behind league leader PAOK Thessaloniki.

The 50-year-old coach and former national team defender quit two days after his team was held to a 1-1 draw at home by 10-man PAOK — saved from defeat by a late goal from AEK forward Ezequiel Ponce.

“Our course in the championship is considered to be unexpected, and because of the atmosphere that this has created, I think it is best for the club that I leave,” Ouzounidis said in a statement. “I wish the players and the club the best for the remainder of the season.”

The Athens club is expected to seek the return of Spanish coach Manolo Jimenez, who last season led AEK to its first championship in 24 years and to the Greek Cup final, losing to PAOK.

If hired, it would mark Jimenez’s third spell at the helm of the Greek club.

Officials at the club had no immediate comment on a successor.

Ouzounidis’ departure was finalized despite a recent recovery of six wins from the previous seven matches. But the Athens club failed to beat any of the other title contenders.

In December, AEK was eliminated from the group stage of Champions League after six straight losses in a group that included Bayern Munich, Ajax and Benfica.

After returning from bankruptcy in 2013, AEK set out to break the long-standing dominance of rival Olympiakos, and is currently building a 30,000-seat stadium north of Athens.

PAOK, vying for its first championship since 1985, leads the Greek standings with 51 points, followed by Olympiakos with 45 and AEK with 37.

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