10 of the biggest wins for Greek clubs in Europe
Last week, Olympiacos defeated AC Milan in the UEFA Europa League to achieve one of the most important victories for a Greek club in European competition for many years. In connection with their triumph, let’s reflect on past glories.
This season, Greek clubs have endured a tough European campaign, especially with AEK going point-less in the UEFA Champions League and PAOK losing five out of six UEFA Europa League games. Things were pretty bleak, but on matchday six of the Europa League group phase, Olympiacos slayed AC Milan at a packed Karaiskakis Stadium to send their Italian visitors packing. The Thrylos will now play Dynamo Kyiv in the Last 32 of the competition.
Olympiacos’ win has given us the ideal opportunity to look back and reflect on 10 of the biggest victories for Greek clubs (two for each team) in European competition among the big five (Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, AEK, Aris, PAOK):
25.02.2014. Olympiacos - Manchester United - 2:0, UEFA Champions League Last 16
Sadly, Olympiacos bowed out of the competition after a bitter 0:3 loss in Manchester, but the first leg triumph is still fresh in the memory.
Argentinian maverick Alejandro Dominguez beautifully flicked the ball beyond David De Gea in the first half, and in the second, Joel Campbell curled a delicious attempt into the bottom left corner from long distance. Throughout the entire 90 minutes Olympiacos played to the maximum of their potential, chasing every ball and competing on a level footing with one of the world’s most famous clubs.
29.09.2015. Arsenal - Olympiacos - 2:3, UEFA Champions League group stage
Taking into account Olympiacos’ dreadful record in England, few expected the Thrylos to triumph against a strong Arsenal side in London. However, in giving a brilliant performance, the Piraeus club triumphed 3:2 at the Emirates Stadium in a match which will always be fondly remembered by the fans.
On 32 minutes, Felipe Pardo opened the scoring in England, sending a deflected drive past the goalkeeper. Theo Walcott popped up with an instant equaliser, however David Ospina then inadvertently carried Konstantinos Fortounis’ corner over the line to give Olympiacos a second lead. Alexis Sanchez made it 2:2 in the second half, but just 60 seconds later, Alfred Finnbogason hit the jackpot for Olympiacos with a wonderful finish to gift the Greeks a rare triumph in the English capital.
03.05.1996. Ajax - Panathinaikos - 0:1, UEFA Champions League semi-finals
The Greens were incredibly close to making the Champions League final for the second time in their history! Yes, they did lose the second leg 0:3 in Athens, but Panathinaikos’ 1:0 triumph in the first match in Amsterdam was incredible. Just to put the win into perspective, Ajax hadn’t lost a home match for seven (!) years before this game.
On 87 minutes, Polish striker Krzysztof Warzycha latched on to a perfect through ball, lifting his attempt over the onrushing goalkeeper to spark wild celebrations among Panathinaikos fans and players alike.
08.10.2000. Panathinaikos - Juventus - 3:1, UEFA Champions League group stage
Hosting Juventus in the concluding game of the first Champions League group phase, Panathinaikos simply had to win to advance, and they duly obliged with a legendary 3:1 victory over Juventus at the Olympic Stadium to knock out their high profile opponents.
Paulo Sousa’s opener was cancelled out by Filippo Inzaghi, but in the second half, Angelos Basinas netted a penalty and Warzycha found the net to defeat Juventus in Athens in dramatic fashion.
07.12.2000. AEK - Bayer Leverkusen - 2:0, UEFA Cup third round
Bayer Leverkusen may not be considered a European giant, but back in the early 2000s, this was a seriously good team with the likes of Michael Ballack and Ze Roberto in their ranks. In the 2001/2002 campaign, Bayer went on to make the final of the UEFA Champions League, so AEK’s victory one season earlier cannot be undermined.
In a pulsating first leg, the teams shared eight goals in a thrilling 4:4 draw, but AEK put Leverkusen to the sword in Nea Filadelfeia with Fernando Navas and Vasilis Tsiartas scoring in a 2:0 win. A large step forward for Greek clubs in Europe.
21.11.2006. AEK - AC Milan - 1:0, UEFA Champions League group stages
AC Milan have developed a habit of coming unstuck in Greece. In addition to their two defeats in recent years, the Milanese failed to beat AEK in the 2017/2018 UEFA Europa League group stages, registering two 0:0 draws.
In the 2006/2007 UEFA Champions League group stage, AEK welcomed AC Milan to the Olympic Stadium, and after their 0:3 defeat at the San Siro earlier in the competition, many thought AEK would lose again. Unexpectedly, the Athenians conjured up a shock, emerging victorious 1:0 thanks to Julio Cesar’s intelligent free kick in the first half. In the latter stages, Milan naturally forced the issue, but AEK held on to a famous victory thanks to excellent defending and faultless goalkeeping from Stefano Sorrentino.
20.09.2007. Aris - Real Zaragoza - 1:0, UEFA Cup first round
In Dusan Bajevic’s debut as head coach, Aris achieved a large victory in Europe, with the Thessaloniki organisation defeating Real Zaragoza (which had Diego Milito and Pablo Aimar on the roster) in the first round of the 2007/2008 UEFA Cup.
Avraam Papadopoulos scored the only goal of the first leg after seven minutes. In the second, Aris did lose 1:2 in Spain, however the away goal notched by Francisco Javito took the Greeks into the group stage.
01.12.2010. Atletico Madrid - Aris - 2:3, UEFA Europa League group stage
What a night for Aris. The stuff of dreams. Placed in a daunting Group B with Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Rosenborg, the Thessaloniki outfit heroically claimed second place behind Leverkusen, and their two victories against Atletico were key. At home, Aris defeated the Spanish giants 1:0, and they then repeated the trick with an incredible 3:2 win at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
Koke gifted Aris an advantage after two minutes, but by half time Atletico were leading after Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero scored. In the second frame, Aris came roaring back, as Koke equalised from the penalty spot and Nikolaos Lazaridis won the match nine minutes from time.
30.11.2011. Tottenham Hotspur - PAOK - 1:2, UEFA Europa League group stage
PAOK managed to claim first place of Group A with Tottenham Hotspur, Rubin Kazan and Shamrock Rovers, tallying an impressive 12 points with three wins and three draws in six games. The pivotal moment arrived on matchday five. In London, Tottenham were favourites to beat PAOK and maintain their place in the top two, but the Dikefalos tou Vorra needed to win.
The odds were stacked against them, but PAOK shocked the entire continent at White Hart Lane, beating Tottenham 2:1. Dimitris Salpingidis and Stefanos Athanasiadis netted the decisive goals within 13 minutes, but on 38 minutes, Luka Modric converted a penalty to bring Tottenham back in the game. PAOK held on in heroic fashion though, giving their large travelling support an historic victory to celebrate.
24.11.2016. Fiorentina - PAOK - 2:3, UEFA Europa League group stage
In the 2015/2016 UEFA Europa League, PAOK had beaten Borussia Dortmund 1:0 in Germany, however it was a dead rubber with the Greeks already eliminated. Next season, the Dikefalos tou Vorra made the trip to Italy for a huge match against Fiorentina, with PAOK requiring a positive result to stay in contention for a place in the knockout phase.
PAOK came flying out of the blocks in the first half, gaining a 2:0 lead with Yevhen Shakhov and Djalma Campos scoring. Fiorentina did come back to level the game, but in the dying moments of stoppage time in the second stanza, Garry Rodrigues launched a quite stunning effort into the top right corner to take all three points back to Thessaloniki. The Greeks finished in second place of the group.