PAOK FC gave new coach Pavlos Dermitzakis a night to savour by holding AFC Ajax to a draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Appointed on Friday following the dismissal of Mario Beretta, Dermitzakis could have been forgiven for fearing the worst when Ajax captain Luis Suárez spectacularly gave the Eredivisie club the lead on 13 minutes. However, Vladimir Ivić's powerful strike on the counterattack 17 minutes from time gave PAOK a slight edge going into the return in Thessaloniki next Wednesday.
PAOK were fortunate not to fall behind moments before Suárez's opener when Kostas Chalkias parried Siem de Jong's strike and Miralem Sulejmani squandered the rebound. Suárez was less wasteful following a bout of confusion in the PAOK area, however. After Anis Boussaidi headed the ball backwards and Gregory van der Wiel flicked it on, the Uruguayan international – with his back to goal – beat Chalkias with an overhead kick.
Having evaded his markers, Sulejmani threatened for a second time ten minutes before the break with a low shot which whistled past the post. The second half continued in a similar vein to that of the first with Martin Jol's side doing most of the pressing but without ever calling Chalkias into serious action. PAOK, sensing an equaliser and enjoying more possession, grew in confidence and were rewarded when Ivić ran on to a long ball forward and fired into the top corner. Toby Alderweireld headed wide for Ajax with nine minutes remaining, but PAOK and Dermitzakis were not to be denied.