- Chori Saves Olympiacos -
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - PLAYOFF QUALIFYING ROUND
|Olympiacos||2 - 1 (AET)||Arouca|
|(3 - 1)
The ultimate catastrophe for Olympiacos was avoided... A late goal from Gege sent the game to extra time, but Dominguez and Ideye were able to save Olympiacos’ European season to qualify for the Europa League Group Stages.
The first 30 minutes of the opening half were played at an extremely slow pace with Olympiacos controlling possession, but did not create opportunities to score. In the 30th minute, Arouca came agonizingly close to a an opener from Gonzalez's header’s off a corner. The crowd expressed their frustration as whistles and boos were heard from the stands when the Olympiacos players had the ball (da Costa, Ideye).
Olympiacos continued at the same pace in the second half with no signs of improvement. Arouca looked the more threatening side creating two great opportunities from headers. In the 80th minute, Arouca stunned the home fans. A defensive lapse from Olympiacos left Gege open in front of goal and his shot beat Kapino to give Arouca the surprising 0-1 lead. The goal tied the scores 1-1 on aggregate canceling out Olympiacos’ away goal in Portugal. With the stadium erupting from the fans’ frustration, Olympiacos finally went on the attack in the final 10 minutes with hopes of a late goal. Both Cambiasso and Pardo wasted chances and the game went into extra time.
Olympiacos started the first 15 minute period where they left off at the end of the second half, and four minutes into overtime the “golden” substitute, Chori Dominguez, came to the rescue. The veteran Argentine’s perfectly placed left-footed shot clipped the post and went in, giving Olympiacos the 2-1 lead on aggregate. The goal completely changed the atmosphere in the Karaiskaki Stadium with the fans pushing the team on for a second goal. At the beginning of the second period, Arouca pressed on knowing that goal would send them through. However, it was Olympiacos who put the game away in the 113th minute with a great goal from Ideye. Andre Martins found the Nigerian forward and his powerful shot left no chance to Arouca’s keeper, securing Olmypiacos’ place in the Europa League Group Stages. The hosts had opportunities to increase their lead, but the 2-1 victory was enough for the Greek Champions.
Tonight’s scare was avoided and Olympiacos buys valuable time to regroup and rebuild their team for the new season in Greece and now in Europe. Olympiacos will play in the Europa League Group Stages for the first time since the 2008-2009 season (UEFA Cup). Since the 2012 season, Olympiacos has played in the Champions League. Olympiacos will be seeded in the first pot in tomorrow’s Group Stage draw.
*If there is one positive thing Olympiacos can take from today's game is the solid performances from two Greek youngsters, Manthatis and Retsos. Both players were exceptional given their age, the importance of the match, and the overall negative atmosphere in the Stadium. The two were praised by the home crowd every time they received the ball.