Olympiacos claim historic victory in Europa Conference League final

Olympiacos are just the third club to win the Europa Conference League after narrowly overcoming Fiorentina in Wednesday night’s tense final at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens.

Ayoub El Kaabi’s 11th European goal of the season – his 33rd in all competitions – was the sole difference between the sides when it came with just four minutes of extra-time remaining.

Having lost last season’s final against West Ham United, Fiorentina hearts were broken again as their hunt for a first continental trophy since lifting the now defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in 1961 goes on.

But Olympiacos, who thrashed Champions League-bound Aston Villa in the last four, made history for themselves and the whole of Greek football. No club from Greece has ever lifted a major European trophy before, with Panathinaikos way back in 1971 the only other side to even reach a final.

Although possession was fairly even throughout, most of the chances fell to a wasteful Fiorentina.

Olympiacos threatened first when Daniel Podence, on loan from Wolves, forced Pietro Terracciano to save inside the opening four minutes – the Fiorentina goalkeeper later denied the same player from a near-post header later in the first half. La Viola then had the ball in the net with only nine minutes on the clock, but VAR intervened and ruled Nikola Milenkovic offside.

Giacomo Bonaventura, frustrated at being left out of Italy’s Euro 2024 squad, didn’t do himself any justice when a tame effort with the whole goal to aim at went straight at Olympiacos stopper Konstantinos Tzolakis, who was also sharp off his line to deny Andrea Belotti a moment later.

Fiorentina continued to press but routinely missed the target, with little change in the pattern of play into the second half. They should have been made to pay for their profligacy with only ten minutes left when a glancing header from Vicente Iborra was inches from putting Olympiacos ahead.

Veteran Olympiacos substitute Stevan Jovetic went close in extra-time against the club where he made his name more than a decade ago. Tired legs threatened to open things up, but as penalties neared it didn’t bode well for Fiorentina given their woeful record from the spot this season.

They needn’t have worried because it didn’t get that far. As he so often has been for Olympiacos, El Kaabi was there when it mattered and, after five goals over two legs in the semi-final, threw himself at Santiago Hezze’s bouncing near-post cross to head beyond Terracciano. There was a lengthy VAR check for a possible offside, but confirmation of the goal was greeted by roars from the Olympiacos players, bench and local Athenian crowd, as it was again moments later at the final whistle.

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