Derby Delights For Panathinaikos
AGONAsport’s Nick Tsambouniaris discusses Panathinaikos big win over their eternal rivals, Olympiacos.
Tricky midfielder Lucas Villafanez became the latest to write his name in the history books of Panathinaikos as he scored the only goal of the game as Panathinaikos edged eternal rivals Olympiakos 1-0 at the famous Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium on Saturday night.
Whilst there was nothing special about the goal, an open net tap in due to poor goalkeeping after a cross from the left wing, the ensuing scenes said it all. As they say, a picture says a thousand words, and you only have to look at the wild celebrations in the stands, on the bench, and by the playing group. These scenes were then replicated after the full time whistle where the players danced and sung to “Horto Magiko” with Gate 13.
A win over the arch-rivals is the best way to lift the morale of the fans in tough times and the players delivered with a top performance. Ouzounidis got the system right, but it was the individual efforts of the players that caught the eye. Hiljemark was once again immense in midfield pulling the strings, Kourbelis was a solid presence in front of the backline, Moledo was a welcome addition and a rock as always, Villafanez constantly provided a threat wriggling his way out of tight spaces, Molins led the line on his own superbly not allowing Olympiakos players time on the ball, Vlachodimos made an array of big saves by putting his body on the line in the last 10 minutes when Olympiakos started attacking with more purpose.
This has been building for some time. The win over PAS in front of a packed Leoforos showed the playing group the fans will be by the side in the difficult times. The players responded with late goals that gained points against Larissa, Lamia and Anagennisi Karditsa, so the passion has been there for all to see. Consequently, it has been clear for some time that players will play like their lives depend on it and for the badge on the shirt. Olympiakos are a better side on paper, that is no secret, but all of that goes out the window in derbies, and passion prevails. Panathinaikos players can be extremely proud of their efforts and they can continue to push on knowing they will be backed by the fan base no matter what.
Leoforos has also become a fortress along the way, with the Greens only shipping 2 goals in the calendar year of 2017 to date. Add to this the fact that the club has gone 19 games without a loss and only suffered 2 defeats in the last 58 games at home and you can see why opposition teams hate playing Panathinaikos away. The key will now be backing this up and pushing for a top 5 spot on the ladder with a tricky run of games coming up against the likes of ladder leaders Atromitos, bogey sides Panionios and Xanthi, and rivals AEK and PAOK.
However this victory should be celebrated, as an outpour of passion on the field and in the stands, coupled with determined performances from the players who stuck to the system, gave the Greens bragging rights until next time. The relationship between the fans and players has not been better for a long time and one thing is certain, Panathinaikos will not die off during these tough times. As goalscorer Villafanez said “the only way forward is with the fans on our side”.