Tough pill to swallow but Olympiacos must move On
AGONAsport’s Olympiacos contributor, Theo Bouras, talks about the Erythrolefki’s disappointing defeat to PAOK and how the club most move on ahead of important clashes in Greece and Europe.
Disappointment. This is the only way you can describe Olympiacos`s performance against PAOK this past Sunday at Toumba Stadium.
For Pedro Martins and his squad, this past Sunday’s clash against first placed PAOK was a chance to show all of Greece who the better team was. Martins had a plan all set; he would suffocate PAOK with a high-pressing game. He would force the Dikefalos tou Vorra defenders to only play the long ball and he had a maestro in the midfield, in the form of Bibars Natcho, which would pierce Razvan Lucescu’s defense. Except, none of this happened.
Though the team began the first two minutes of the game playing high and even had a long strike from Lazaros Christodoulopoulos, it was PAOK that opened up the scoring in the third minute with a Vieirinha shot that was rather fortunate. The PAOK captain’s shot deflected off Natcho’s foot and Olympiacos goalkeeper, Jose Sa, had no chance. From that point on, Martins claims that his entire game plan went out the window and the Reds looked borderline lost.
The move to put in Natkco over Mady Camara proved to be extremely costly. PAOK were able to get to Olympiacos’ penalty box with ease because Natkco was unable to keep up. What Martins was hoping to gain offensively with the Israeli midfielder, he lost defensively. Camara doesn’t have the offensive vision or skill of Natkco. He does, however, have a great set of lungs. His constant running and ground coverage always troubles opposing teams.
Olympiacos didn’t ever seem like they got into the game. Meanwhile, PAOK capitalized on the Reds’ lackluster defense. Leonardo Koutris, Vasilis Torosidis, Pape Abou Cisse, and Jagos Vukovic have all had better days. The backline made a ton of mistakes; the biggest one when Cisse was stripped off the ball by PAOK forward Chuba Akpom.
Everyone is entitled to a bad day at the office. The players and Martins know that their performance at Toumba was unacceptable. If this season has taught us anything, though, it is that the administration is willing to let this team have some failures and learn. In prior seasons, a performance like this might have had fans calling for Martins’ head, but not this year. Club owner, Evangelos Marinakis, wants to build a core for the future - one that will, once again, dominate the league for years to come.
Back in 2003, Panathinaikos was in the midst of putting together a good, young, Greek core of players. In the second to last matchday, they needed a victory, a tie or even a loss (but not by more than 1 goal) to claim the Greek Championship and stop Olympiacos’, at the time, record 6-year championship run. The Greens were dominated 3-0 in the now infamous Rizoupoli game. The Panathinaikos board had a knee-jerk reaction and decimated that team over the course of the summer of 2003. One year later, a good portion of the Greek National Team that triumphed at Euro 2004 was composed of those Panathinaikos players. That should be looked at as a lesson for all club owners looking to blow up their teams after one bad result, which we have come accustomed tt in Greece.
Even with a victory against PAOK, Olympiacos would have made things more interesting, but the Thessaloniki-based team would still have had their destiny in their own hands and would have probably won the league. Martins has the trust of the administration and the fans and his mandate will be to have a solid Europa League run and to conquer the Greek Cup. Olympiacos is in the midst of a heavy schedule. A loss to AEK this coming Sunday, and an elimination from the Europa League next week can have Marinakis hitting the panic button sooner than we think.