An Ugly Victory
There are times that when aside from the result of the contest, teams will look back at their performance and pull out a lot of positives. This past Thursday was not one of those times.
After an uninspiring 1-1 draw in Piraeus, Olympiacos travelled to Bratislava needing a victory over local side Slovan Bratislava to advance to the Europa League playoff. What ensued was a matchup full of ups and downs, injuries, tactical mismanagements, chaos, and ultimately, triumph.
Newly appointed manager Carlos Corberan quickly realized on Thursday that this Olympiacos squad would need a lot of work. Though the Reds showed some signs of progressive football in both the first and second fixtures against Slovan, trivial mistakes on and off the pitch almost cost them the qualification.
Yann M’Vila was once again complete class on the field as his positioning, distribution and calm demeanour proved to be what Olympiacos needed. Lazar Randjelovic, the forgotten man under Pedro Martins, also took this new opportunity under Corberan in stride.
The 39-year old Spanish manager showed signs of inexperience at the end of the second half of regulation and of the extra time when he decided to inexplicably park the bus against the Slovakian champions. The Greek champions were on the receiving end of scoring chances and you just felt it that the tying goal would eventually come.
Finally, it was Mathieu Valbuena’s penalty strike that sent the Erythrolefki to the next round of the Europa League against Cypriot side, Apollon Limassol.
The 47-time Greek champions failed to impress in their first four official games this season. Pedro Martins’ time at Renti has come and gone, but there is a lot of ground to cover if this team wants to be ready to compete in the 2022-23 season.
Carlos Corberan can’t possibly have a grasp on the team as he has barely had time to have a cup of coffee in Greece. He did, however, raise many eyebrows when Olympiacos treated their lead in Bratislava as an inexperienced minnow rather than a team with a rich European competition presence. Whether Corberan is the right man for Olympiacos will be decided in the weeks and months to come. The only thing that is clear now, is the squad’s lack of quality.
We’ve heard all summer long the rumors about a bonafide winger, an attacking midfielder playmaker and possibly another midfielder in the “6-8” role. The jury is out on In-beom Hwang and Konrad De La Fuente, but if you’re an Olympiacos supporter you must be hoping that this can’t possibly be it.
Summer don’t always dictate the future of the season. In 2008, Olympiacos lost 3-1 on aggregate to Anorthosis Famagusta and was eliminated from the Champions League in August. Ernesto Valverde, fresh into his first stint at Piraeus, was heavily criticized. What ensued was a dreamy season for the Erythrolefki, ending in a Greek Double and a memorable European run.
Just one short year later, Temuri Ketsbaia, having replaced Valverde cruised through the Champion League Qualifiers but got off to a rocky start in the Superleague. Then President Sokratis Kokkalis fired Ketsbaia, and what followed was a catastrophic season where we saw four managers, no titles and a 5th place season.
The Summer doesn’t always predict what will happen once the season begin, but it gives us a good indication. Much like last year, this Olympiacos squad is lacking some real character.
In previous years, teams always had to worry about a world-class player when they faced the Reds. Giovanni, Rivaldo, Galleti, Djordjevic, just a name a few where players that often occupied the opposing manager’s mental planning. No offense to Mathieu Valbuena, who at 38 years old is doing a commendable job, but we currently do not have a difference-making player. It’s up to club owner Evangelos Marinakis and the team’s administration to change all that.