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Olympiakos becomes first Greek side to lift European trophy

Thursday, May 30th, 2024 07:42 | By
Olympiakos celebrate their Europa Conference League win. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X
Olympiakos celebrate their Europa Conference League win. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X

Ayoub El Kaabi struck four minutes from the end of extra time as Olympiakos beat Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final to become the first Greek side to win a European trophy.

The Moroccan striker, hero of Olympiakos' run to the final, stooped low to head in Santiago Hezze's cross and spark pandemonium in the AEK Arena in Athens.

A lengthy video assistant referee check confirmed El Kaabi's 11th goal of the competition and their place in Greek footballing history.

It is a second year of dramatic heartbreak for Fiorentina after the Italian side were beaten by West Ham in last season's final thanks to Jarrod Bowen's late goal.

Olympiakos flew out of the blocks as they attempted to reward their ferocious support, who had traveled the short distance from Piraeus to the home of their rivals AEK in northern Athens.

Olympiakos make history

It was only the second time a Greek team had reached a European final while Fiorentina were playing in their sixth.

Both sides traded blows in a first half that promised goalmouth action but resulted in few clear chances.

On-loan Wolves midfielder Daniel Podence forced Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano into a fine save down his left in the opening three minutes.

Olympiacos players pose for a photo. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X
Olympiakos players pose for a photo. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X

Giacomo Bonaventura should have given Fiorentina the lead but his tentative effort in the box safely dropped into Konstantinos Tzolakis’ arms.

The Italians put together the best move of the night in the second half as right-back Dodo surged forward and found Christian Kouame in space inside the box but his poor contact on the ball allowed Tzolakis to claw it clear.

Extra time was needed it was El Kaabi - who scored five goals in the semi-finals against Aston Villa - who rose to the occasion again.

History for Greek football

Olympiakos thrashed Unai Emery's fancied Villa side 6-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals but they still came into this game as underdogs against a Fiorentina team looking to right the wrongs of last season.

Panathinaikos were the only previous Greek team to feature in a European final, when they were beaten by Ajax in the 1971 European Cup final at Wembley.

Olympiacos players and staff join fans in celebrations. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X
Olympiakos players and staff join fans in celebrations. PHOTO/@olympiacosfc/X

As the game wore on, and chances became scarce, it looked like both sides would be happy to chance their luck in a penalty shootout.

But the Greek side committed men forward in a late attack and the 30-year-old El Kaabi - whose career has taken him from Morocco to China, Turkey, Qatar and now Greece - was in the right place to write his name in Olympiakos folklore.

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