Olympiakos End of Season Thoughts
With the final whistle of the Dutch referee Danny Makkelie for the Greek Cup Final, which was held at the Olympic Stadium of Athens on the evening of the 22nd of May 2021, came the end of Olympiacos' rather extended 2020/2021 football period.
Even though this last game of the season may leave both players and fans with a bitter aftertaste, it is safe to say that the club has been rather successful coming off the heels of a 2019/20 period in which they had tasted domestic success for the first time after three years, winning both league and cup, while at the same time making their names heard all around Europe with their feats.
This time around, the "erythrolefki" weren't forced to begin their European journey in the early months of summer as their championship title allowed them to enter the UEFA Champions League from the play-off rounds where they faced off with Cypriot title-holders Omonia. Taking advantage of their opponents’ inexperience, Pedro Martins' men were able to seal their ticket into the group stages from the first game of the tie, which was played at the "Georgios Karaiskakis", where they gained a 2-0 advantage. Their opponents weren't able to do much in the return game and in fact they were fortunate not to succumb to a second loss as their goalkeeper had quite a lot of work to do in order to keep the Olympiacos forwards silent and the two teams goalless (0-0).
However, the group stage was an entirely different story. Drawn in a group that left much room for optimism, with Portuguese champions Porto, Premier League heavyweights Manchester City and Matthieu Valbuena's favorite Olympique Marseille as their opponents, the end results felt like a wake-up call for the miserable state that Greek football has fallen into. Even though the Greek title-holders made an excellent start, thanks to a 1-0 win over Olympique, credit to a late goal by golden substitute Ahmed Hassan, that was pretty much all that the team from Piraeus was able to accomplish in the group, marking one of their worst appearances in the Champions League to date. Thankfully however, that single win was enough to send them through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, as Marseille did an even worse job than them!
With a bit more time to set things straight, Pedro Martins and his men made a rather encouraging appearance in the first match for the round of 32 of UEFA's second-tier club competition. Their opponents: PSV Eindhoven. And even though the team from the Netherlands claimed the advantage twice in the first half, Olympiacos found the emotional strength to not only fight back, but to gain a two-goal lead ahead of the game at the Philips Stadion (4-2.) Unfortunately, even that wasn't enough and all it took was 45 minutes for their advantage to turn to dust. But once again, it was Hassan to the rescue, scoring a goal late in the game that would send the club to the round of 16 for the second time in two consecutive years (2-1).
UEFA's draw played a cruel game on the team from Piraeus and brought them face-to-face with a hurt giant - a giant that they themselves had brought to his knees a few months earlier. Arsenal would be Olympiacos' obstacle for the quarter-finals, and this time around, Mikel Arteta and his men had no intention of fooling around. Finishing off the procedure with a 1-3 statement-win at the "Karaiskakis", the “gunners” had little trouble winning the tie. A third consecutive victory at the "Emirates" with 0-1 thanks to an El Arabi goal was small consolation for the Greek team who saw their European journey come to an end at the same place as their last one.
And if things in Europe remained relatively the same, domestically the club seemed more intimidating than ever! Beating most of their opponents both home and away, the "erythrolefki" secured the title weeks before the playoffs, turning the procedure into nothing more than a series of friendly fixtures. This in turn allowed Pedro Martins to try out new playstyles and make changes to his strategy ahead of the upcoming season, which promises to be one of the most challenging in recent history.
It wasn't just the number of wins though, but also the scope. Playing against some of their greatest rivals in the league, Olympiacos demonstrated the sheer quality of their squad, scoring some impressing victories such as the 1-5 against AEK, the 1-4 against Panathinaikos, and the 3-0 over PAOK. The team also had some impressive wins against lesser opponents, like the 0-6 at Lamia, the 0-4 at Tripoli, and the 1-5 at home versus Larissa.
Olympiacos ended the Greek Super League with an impressive tally of 90 points, having a huge advantage of 26 over second-placed PAOK. They were able to score over 80 goals while they accepted 19, a highly enviable statistic for any club.
Even in the Greek Cup their performances were quite impressive up until the day of the final, as they were able to disqualify Panetolikos, Aris, and Giannena with relative ease despite their busy schedule; Olympiacos had European obligations until the middle of March. The fact that the club from Piraeus was able to perform well in three competitions until so late in the season is further proof of their success.
Yes, the loss of the Greek Cup will leave fans thinking that this season wasn't as good as it could've been. But still, looking at everything that the team achieved, and taking into consideration that this all occurred right off the heels of a season plagued with scheduling issues due to the pandemic, this season should leave everyone at the club, players and staff, with a feeling of success, like they did their absolute best.
They are all worthy of praise and a highly deserved break, as an even more demanding football period is coming up that could see the team begin their games as early as June. So, with all that in mind, we're going to say that this was an overall great season for Olympiacos and hope for an even better one!