Fenerbahce vs Olympiakos: UEL Post Match
The Big Risk that Became a Stroke of Genius
After a couple of days of intense buildup, Olympiakos travelled to Istanbul to face the challenging task of playing Fenerbahce in front of the Turkish side’s passionate supporters.
The expectation from many supporters of Thrylos going into this match would be to get at least a draw in a tough away tie and maintain an undefeated start to our Europa League group stage campaign. Some big injury news was released the day before the match, however, with stalwart defensive midfielder Yann M’Vila unable to travel with the Greek champions due to injury.
This put huge question marks over how we should be able to cover the backline sufficiently against an attacking side like Fenerbahce. There was at least a unanimous agreement that the most likely formation set up by Pedro Martins would be the 4-3-3. However, the Portuguese tactician decided to start his team in a 5-4-1 formation, to the bewilderment of supporters on social media, including a back three of Sokratis, Cisse, and Ba with Masouras starting as an auxiliary right wing back. This was a very bold choice from Martins. Either it was going to crash and burn, or it would certify him as a mad genius.
The match began with Fenerbahce on the front foot to kick off proceedings. The home side had the first opportunity of the game as a threatening shot went just wide of Vacliks post. Just six minutes in, Masouras took hold of the ball and caught Fener off guard. The Greek international, after a nice move with striker Tiquinho, passed the ball to the Brazilian who chipped it over the keeper rushing in to give Thrylos a shock early 0-1 lead in Istanbul to the stunned silence of the home fans. After the initial shock, Fenerbahce responded to going a goal down with an attempt from Enner Valencia, after making an impressive solo run, but the ensuing shot went wide of the post again. Fener continued to pile on the pressure with a couple of close chances but at the same time having to attempt them from outside the box was the defensive discipline of Olympiakos.
It became apparent that Martins, while starting his team in the 5-4-1, had set up his side to constantly rotate from a back five to a back four and changing to the 4-2-3-1 on the counter. Ba would rotate to become the right back and Masouras would then push up in a more advanced position. Thrylos was content to let the home side keep the ball and wait to win it back before contouring. As the game reached the midpoint of the first half, the hosts continued in their attempt to find a way past Olympiakos. After another attempt was well defended by Oleg, Fener won a corner. The ensuing cross was poorly defended by Cisse who attempted and failed to kick the ball out of his team’s box but thankfully Sokratis was there to cover his centre back partner and another chance was cancelled out again.
As the first half began to reach its latter stages Olympiakos continued to hold their lead against a frustrated Fenerbahce. After a brief period of possession, Tiquinho’s audacious pass was intercepted by Valencia who made an impressive run with Dimitris Pelkas following him on the break, but rather than passing to the Greek international who was in a better position, the Ecuadorian took the shot instead and Vaclik once again made the save.
Thrylos had a period of attacking play after, with Aguibou “Baby” Camara doing everything right until his final pass to put Tiquinho through on goal but instead, the Guinean’s attempt was comfortably intercepted. Moments later, a cross found Mady who had to force a save from the Fener keeper in the 35th minute. Eyrthrolefkoi almost doubled their lead with less than ten minutes before halftime. Onyekuru delivered a fantastic pass to Masouras who, rather than taking the shot, second guessed himself and attempted a low cross instead which was parried out. Mady latched onto the rebound but his shot was too strong and it went just over the crossbar. Masouras again attempted a cross after a good move but despite finding no one it did manage to go out for a corner.
In the last few minutes of the half, Fener frustration became more evident as Enner Valencia, after a bit of a tussle with Bouchalakis, fouled the Thrylos captain. Cisse got involved after play was stopped and both he and the Ecuadorian forward were booked for their trouble. Ba too committed a foul with halftime looming after a silly challenge and was also booked.
Diego Rossi, just before the break, missed a huge chance to equalise and put his shot just over the bar. At the halftime whistle we as Thrylos fans were holding our breath with our side holding a slender lead away in Turkey.
With the second half about to start, Martins crucially made the change of Ba off for Kenny Lala to play as the definite right back. Fener started with possession and a close chance went out for an early corner. A close chance from the ensuing cross threw players in the box but Vaclik saved our team again. Fener conceded to pepper Olympiakos with chances as a cross found Valencia who missed and hit the header out. With Thrylos struggling to regain possession and put more than a few passes together. As the second half started to take shape, Luis Gustavo attempted a shot outside the box with 54 minutes remaining and went well wide again. Fener constantly threatened to draw the score level and give us all heartbreak, but thankfully Thylos defence continued to minimise the quality of the host’s chances.
Another cross came in for Pelkas with the biggest chance of the game for his team at that point, had his shot cannon off the post and past the goal line in a huge miss for Fener. After a bit of pressure from Fener just before the hour mark, Oly broke with Camara running the length of the pitch and his shot was saved by a flying leap from the keeper and forced a corner, another golden chance this time for Olympiakos to double their lead. With Thrylos gaining momentum, Tiquinho attempted a low cross that found Camara whose shot was saved. The ensuing rebound however found Masouras, who levelled it past the keeper to make it 0-2 and give a huge cushion to the Greek champions just past the hour mark.
The Greek champions did not settle on their lead, as it was at this point where we started to see more of the ball and control the game. After a nice passage of play with substitute Kunde at the corner flag of Fener. A cross from the latter player was able to find Tiquinho whose shot was parried out and Masouras was there again to score the oncoming rebound to make it 0-3 to Olympiakos. Olympiakos started to build again as Fener seemed to get more frustrated at being a huge 3 goals behind. The Turkish side, in front of their fans, began to run out of ideas in the latter stages and Olympiakos constantly found themselves on the front foot looking for a 4th goal. Masouras, on a hattrick, found himself on goal alone against the keeper and attempted to seal it only for the keeper to save his low shot.
With five minutes to play of normal time left, El Arabi was subbed on by Martins to replace a very impressive Tiquinho. Despite being three goals down, credit to Fenerbahce as they searched for a consultation. Pelkas late on received the ball and powered a shot just off-target, and looked rather forlorn as the hope of a late push to level proceedings had all but gone. Masouras, the hero of the evening, was subbed off for Valbuena who was given the chance to play against his former club. Mady was also subbed off for Vrousai just before the end of normal time. Fener had the final attack of the match and even in defeat they attempted one last chance at consolation but it was in vain. Olympiakos saw out a huge 0-3 away victory in Turkey against Fenerbahce and what was seen as a risky move from Martins with the set up, turned into a stroke of genius from the Portuguese Professor.
This was not only a success for the club and players but a success for Martins as well. If people doubt this coach's ability to correctly manage this team before the match, then they must be well and truly quashed now such was the tactical mastery of this game. There are a few nitpicks obviously with Ba playing right back for a long period of the first half but Martins rectified that by bringing on Lala, who himself looked much better than he has all season. As of this victory, Olympiakos sit top of our group with two wins and six points, two points ahead of Frankfurt who we play in Match Days 3 and 4. Next on the agenda is the derby against Panathinaikos and it is our hope as Thrylos faithful, that we go into the international break right with a famous win this Sunday against the Prasinoi.