No Goalkeeper...Empty Handed
UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE - ROUND OF 16 (LEG 2)
|Besiktas||4 - 1||Olympiacos|
Babel 22', 75'
|(5 - 2)
Olympiacos exited the Europa League on Thursday after suffering a woeful 4-1 defeat to 10-man Besiktas in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie in Istanbul, ending up on the wrong end of a 5-2 aggregate scoreline. Nicola Leali, who’s gaffe gave Besiktas a draw in Greece for the first leg, is to be blame for the first three goals conceded.
Despite putting themselves back in contention needing just one more goal at 2-1 down at half-time on the night, and with a numerical advantage for the entire second half after Vincent Aboubakar's sending off just before the break, Vasilis Vouzas’ team capitulated in the second half.
Besiktas looked to be cruising after early goals from Aboubakar and Ryan Babel put them firmly in command after half an hour, taking advantage of Leali’s poor goalkeeper in both plays. However, Tarik Elyounoussi's spectacular scissor-kick equaliser reduced the deficit before Aboubakar's sending off just ahead of half-time for an off-the-ball headbutt handed Olympiacos the initiative.
Instead of going on to record a famous result and claim a place in the last eight of a European competition for the third time in the club’s history, it was Besiktas who found another gear to dispatch the visitors.
Babel, who had not scored a European goal since 2010 before tonight, notched a crucial second for himself and his side’s third from a low, diagonal snapshot which visiting goalkeeper Nicola Leali could only parry into the net.
Then Olympiacos’ miserable night was complete in the last minute when slack marking allowed Besiktas to break clear with Cenk Tosun dinking his 20th goal of the season in all competitions over the hapless dive of Leali after being played in by man-of-the-math Babel.
The Olympiacos players looked truly shellshocked at this point as the final whistle then sparked wild celebrations among the home fans who had witnessed their team defy the odds to deservedly claim their place in the last eight.
Vouzas - and Olympiacos owner Vangelis Marinakis - will surely demand an inquest into how the team collapsed so easily after being essentially handed the advantage on a plate by half-time.
The coach will have to pick his players up and regroup ahead of this weekend’s crucial Athens derby against eternal rivals Panathinaikos at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium where another defeat will put their domestic title credentials in doubt.