Olympiakos 1 – 0 Fiorentina

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Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 after extra-time in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday to win the club’s first major European trophy, thanks to a late winner from Ayoub El Kaabi.

In a match that was high on intensity and physicality but low on quality in front of goal, neither side could find the net in the regulation 90 minutes before El Kaabi netted the winner in the 116th minute.

With the game seemingly headed to a penalty shootout, El Kaabi got in front of his marker to bundle in Santiago Hezze’s cross but the players and fans had a long, nervous wait for VAR to check for offside before the goal was awarded.

The result marked a second consecutive defeat in the Europa Conference League final for Fiorentina, who had reached this season’s summit clash without losing a single game.

How Olympiakos made history in Athens

Rodinei Celebrates At The End Of The Conference League Final
Rodinei celebrates at the end of the Conference League final

Piraeus is going to party like it never has before. It is quite a stunning achievement for a side who were on their third head coach earlier this season.

But El Kaabi would score his 16th goal in his 19th UEFA club competition appearance this season, the most by an African player in a single campaign.

The result means Jose Luis Mendilibar sealed a European honour for the second successive campaign, having guided Sevilla to Europa League glory last term.

Fiorentina'S Goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano Blocks Olympiakos' Ayoub El Kaabi'S Shot During The Conference League Final
Fiorentina’s goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano blocks Olympiakos’ Ayoub El Kaabi’s shot during the Conference League final

Olympiakos survived the Istanbul penalty shootout against Fenerbahce in the quarter-finals thanks to goalkeeper Konstantinos Tzolakis’ heroics – but El Kaabi’s intervention with four minutes of extra-time remaining ensured the drama of a spot-kicks was avoided.

This was a shot at redemption for Fiorentina, who arrived seeking their first European title since the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup success over Rangers in 1961.

But, having lost their previous four European finals, including the dramatic defeat to West Ham at this stage last season, Vincenzo Italiano suffered yet more agony in what could prove to be his final game in charge.

Olympiacos Players Celebrate Their Victory
Olympiacos players celebrate their victory

Italiano, whose contract runs out at Fiorentina this summer, picked eight of the starting XI that evening against the Hammers here in Athens.

Giacomo Bonaventura and Nicolas Gonzalez lacked composure in wasting first-half chances while Daniel Podence, on loan from Wolves, tested Pietro Terracciano with Olympiakos’ best chance of the opening period.

There was very little to separate the two sides in a tentative second half which saw Vicente Iborra – now with a Europa Conference League honour to add to his four Europa League titles with Sevilla – head wide.

Olympiakos Become The First Greek Side To Win A Major European Club Competition
Olympiakos become the first Greek side to win a major European club competition

This contest was taking place at the home venue of Olympiakos’ fierce rivals AEK Athens, some 15km from their Piraeus home, and Mendilibar turned to the former Fiorentina forward Stevan Jovetic in search of inspiration.

In extra-time, with the game still goalless, it nearly came as he weaved inside onto his right foot and drew a smart save from Terracciano.

Fiorentina Players React Disappointed At Full Time
Fiorentina players react disappointed at full-time

Olympiakos were only the second Greek club to be taking part in a major club European final after Panathinaikos lost to Ajax at Wembley in the 1971 European Cup, and they began to grow in confidence as Fiorentina’s energy levels began to wane.

Italiano had called on his players to “use the bitterness” of their defeat to West Ham 12 months ago – but they were breached with four minutes of extra-time remaining as Hezze’s low cross was glanced in by El Kaabi.

It would survive an agonising VAR review to spark wild scenes across Athens.

What’s next?

Fiorentina still have one remaining Serie A fixture this weekend when they visit Atalanta on Sunday; kick-off 5pm.