Finish them off
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, talks about Olympiacos’ big win in Turkey and how the Reds need to finish the job on Tuesday night.
What if before the first leg in Turkey, I would have told you that Olympiacos was going to draw Basaksehir 1-1? Would you have been happy? I know I would have. Fast forward into the injury time of the game, and Olympiacos had a chippy 0-1 lead that would give them a tremendous advantage heading to their home ground for the second leg. You all know how the story went down, but more so than his heroic penalty save, Jose Sa taught us a lesson about how to right the ship; even if the sailing initially is a little rocky.
For a third straight game, manager Pedro Martins started a very similar Starting XI. Much like the summer of 2018, Martins has entrusted an eleven that he sees as match fit and ready, and will only make minor adjustments to get the rest of his squad some playing time.
The Legend seemed to have control of the contest and went ahead deservedly in the 53rd minute. I don’t believe Giorgos Masouras has publicly admitted this, but his header was clearly meant to be a pass, but we’ll definitely take the goal! Masouras has shown he deserves a starter’s spot. With Lazaros Christodoulopoulos’ return being imminent, Martins will have a plethora of wingers at his disposal. It will still take a lot for Martins to remove Masouras and right winger Daniel Podence from the starting scheme. Podence has started off somewhat slow, but he’s one of Martins’ favorites and will be one of the keys to Olympiacos’ success this season.
No one will ever call Miguel Angel Guerrero a clinical finisher, but you can’t take away the Spaniard’s work ethic. Guerrero is a streaky scorer but his endless runs and battling on the field have adhered him to his manager. The French seasoned veteran, Mathieu Valbuena, also had a solid outing with his superb cross breaking open the Turkish defence for the game’s lone goal. Valbuena will contribute this season, but Martins is fully aware his new acquisition is 35 years old and will need rest. Andreas Bouchalakis had a solid outing defensively, even if he, uncharacteristically, missed a couple of “easy” passes in the midfield. Guilherme was simply himself and is an integral part of this team.
The defensive line is shaping up to be one of the best the team has had in the past few years. Wing-backs Omar Elabdellaoui and Kostas Tsimikas made many timely runs in the offensive zone, and always retrieved to their positions in time when the Turks tried to play the counter attack. Ruben Semedo continued to gel well with Yassine Meriah. We are blessed to see this kind of player in Greece in 2019. Semedo’s past history has been well documented and right now it’s the case where Semedo the Footballer is being held back by the past actions of Semedo the Human Being. Nonetheless, as Olympiacos fans, we’re not complaining! His pairing with Meriah continues to improve and will be a huge asset for this year’s team.
Finally, goalkeeper Jose Sa once again showed the world why he’s the Greek Super League’s best goalkeeper. Sa made a brutal error in the 14th minute that luckily didn’t end up costing the team. While other players would play the rest of the game nervous, Sa remained cool and collected and played a great game. His save on winger Edin Visca’s powerful shot in the 71st minute would have been his best if he hadn’t stopped the Bosnian international’s 92nd minute penalty shot.
Back at Your Castle
Olympiacos have been undefeated in their last 13 European qualifying games (10 wins, 3 ties). The Erythrolefki still need to have a good performance at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium on Tuesday night; Basaksehir are nowhere near the cohesive unit that the Erythrolefki are, but they do have a couple of talented players up front that can cause damage.
Martins and his side will be happy to know that they will have a near sell-out crowd at the Stadium cheering them on. This off-season, the team has seen a rise in season ticket sales and their European qualifying games have been practically sold out (a rare occurrence seeing how most locals vacation during this time of the year). It seems like the supporters have rallied behind the team after two straight seasons without a title; a time where the team needs the most support.
We’re still in the midst of summer preparations and the team isn’t entirely ready. Their performance in Turkey was nowhere near what this team can achieve but it was a professional victory with a solid performance. The difference between good teams and great teams, is that great teams are able to find ways to win even on nights where they aren’t perfect. Tuesday night will be another chance for the Legend to prove what we have been saying all along; that this team belongs amongst Europe’s best.