The Mother of All Derbies
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, talks about the mother of all derbies ahead of tomorrow’s eternal enemies clash.
There is something very special about derby clashes between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos. Greece’s two most popular teams might not be at their strongest points at the moment, but make no mistake about it, when the Reds clash the Greens, everyone is watching.
Olympiacos might, theoretically, have nothing to play for, but getting one over their eternal rivals should be enough motivation for Pedro Martins and his men. The last time Olympiacos triumphed against the Tryfilli was in November of 2016, a 3-0 trashing at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium. Since then, the Erythrolefki have counted two draws and two losses at the hands of Panathinaikos.
Pedro Martins is already looking at piecing together next season’s roster, and games like these will act as an evaluation for a lot of the players that are on the cusp. Kostas Fortounis spoke to the press and said that he’s excited with the direction this team is on. If Olympiacos are to get their first road win against Panathinaikos since 2013, Fortounis will need to play a prominent role. The Starting XI is anything but clear at the moment, but Martins has let it be known that the Reds will attack and that his team will dictate the pace. Olympiacos have won 11 of their last 12 Superleague clashes, and the team would love a win at the OAKA Spyros Louis Stadium.
When thinking of a March away derby against Panathinaikos, it’s hard not to remember the 1-4 Greek Cup game in March of 2001. With Olympiacos playing hosts in the first leg of the semifinal draw, Nikos Lymberopoulos equalized the score late in the affair with a beautiful one-timer strike outside the box. The Greens had what they wanted, a 1-1 tie going back to Leoforos Alexandras for the second leg. After his goal, Lymberopoulos infamously went to the Olympiacos supporters and started pointing to his jersey.
The return leg at Leoforo had Olympiacos needing at least a goal to stay alive. The pressure was mounting, and the fact that the iconic captain Predrag Djordjevic would have to miss the game due to injury did nothing to encourage the Olympiacos fanbase. What transpired that evening was a night where everything went the Legend’s way. Quick goals by Alekos Alexandris and Luciano de Souza set the tempo early on and Takis Lemonis (who was the manager at the time) and his team never looked back. When Grigoris Georgatos sent home a perfectly placed penalty shot to make the game 1-3, the Red supporters – nearly 5 000 of them in Leoforos – exploded! Georgatos made sure that as a celebration, he took the entire team in the middle of the pitch and mimicked Lymberopoulos’ celebration. To this day, I can’t possibly watch it without getting chills.
No matter in what shape these two teams are in, nothing is more exciting than a Panathinaikos-Olympiacos derby; regardless who the home team is. Martins’ work this season can’t be ignored. For the first time in over two years, the Erythrolefki are finally playing some football we can all enjoy watching. A win against Panathinaikos tomorrow won’t bring Olympiacos a title. Mathematically, it won’t change a single thing. What a win tomorrow would do is give the fans joy. Additionally, it will re-assure Evangelos Marinakis that Martins and this squad need to be the base for next season; a season where the Erythrolefki want to go back to their rightful spot, the top of Greek football.