Another magical European night in Piraeus
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, talks about Olympiacos’ credible draw against Tottenham and the optimism it leaves ahead of this season’s European campaign.
Tottenham’s bench boss Mauricio Pochettino had nothing but praise for the Legend and its supporters. Last year’s Champions League finalists rolled into Piraeus with the intent of starting their season on the right foot but were probably lucky to leave Greece with the draw.
Looking like One of Europe’s Elite
It was a typical Champions League atmosphere on Wednesday evening. Aside from the start time feeling abnormal, Georgios Karaiskakis was electric. The capacity crowd, having already triumphed on a handful of occasions this year, didn’t seem fazed by the fact that they were squaring off against a European juggernaut. A team that has more than ten times the budget of Olympiacos. A team that is a contender for the English Premier League every season. A team that was 90 minutes away from winning the Champions League last season.
Regardless of all that, it was Olympiacos that dictated the pace in the early going and was the only dangerous side on the pitch. In all the years that I have watched the Erythrolefki in Europe against powerhouse teams, I have never seen them overtake a midfield like they did against the Spurs. Guilherme was first on every ball and often was making himself the option when the Tottenham players were tightly marking. Andreas Bouchalakis was, in my opinion, the MVP of the contest. The Greek midfielder not only ran more than any other player on the pitch (11.75 km), he made key interceptions (see the start-up to Valbuena winning the penalty), and his passes opened up the game and created the quick counter-attack that manager Pedro Martins was hoping to see.
Olympiacos were the better team in the first 25 minutes of this game, but the 0-2 scoreline at the 31' was were it reality sunk in. Against a team like Tottenham, mistakes made are often found in the back of your net. Martins’ team didn’t deserve to be behind, but they were; and they had quite the mountain to climb!
Instead of crying their fate and sitting back not to get embarrassed, the 44-time Greek Champions kept pushing back and were rewarded with a goal by Daniel Podence before half-time. The fact that the lead was sliced in half gave the entire crowd resurgence and guaranteed that we’d be seeing a thrilling second half. In the 55th minute, Mathieu Valbuena (who has found the fountain of youth and is chugging whatever it’s pouring) won a penalty and converted it himself. Valbuena is a true professional and his signing has already paid dividends. The Erythrolefki didn’t sit on the tie and were looking to get ahead but the final score probably reflects the fairest result for both sides based on the scoring chances.
Next up, Olympiacos will travel to Serbia where a road victory would certainly put the Gavros in the discussion for a second place finish in the group. In today’s era, it’s difficult to believe that Olympiacos will ever reach a final, semi-final or even a quarter-final. The 2019-20 edition of Olympiacos, however, give you hope that on any given night, they are able to shock even the world’s best teams.