Stumbling into 2022
As nice as the Christmas Holidays are, it’s hard not to get excited when you’re about to see Olympiacos for the first time in two weeks. The Erythrolefki, riddled with absences due to Covid, injuries and the Copa Africa, travelled to Rizoupoli to face off against last place Apollonas Smyrnis.
The hosts had roster issues of their own (15 absences with 6 being due to Covid) but held on for a golden draw with goalkeeper Davino Verhulst acting as MVP of the match.
The draw ended the Legend’s winning streak in the Greek League and forced Olympiacos to their third draw of the 2021-2022 Greek Superleague season; the other two being on Matchday 1 at home against Atromitos and on October 3rd at home against Panathinaikos.
After Sokratis Papastathopoulos picked up a knock, Avraam Papadopoulos started next to Ousseynou Ba in the center back position. Kenny Lala and Thanasis Androutsos were also unavailable, therefore Michail Karbownik made his way back to the Starting XI after a long break.
The Erythrolefki had over 75% worth of ball possession but lacked flair and creativity with the ball at their feet. In the first half, Mady Camara was stunned from Verhulst on a point-blank shot and Andreas Bouchalakis’s right-footed blast in the 32nd minute was turned away by the Belgian keeper. Bouchalakis was in poor form today and was injured late in the contest.
The second half was more of the same. Pedro Martins substituted Mady Camara for Tiquinho and the 4-3-3 turned into a 4-4-2. Tiquinho almost put the league leaders ahead with a 61st minute header but, once again, Verhulst was positioned properly to stir the shot aside. Mathieu Valbuena entered the game in the second half and attempted to be that creative link Olympiacos were missing all evening. In the 73rd minute, the French playmaker crossed in a beautiful ball that Youssef El-Arabi sent over the net. The Moroccan striker was also in poor form today; he looked like he was a step behind, often losing the ball between his legs and showing poor balance.
After the 73rd minute, the lackluster play continued and the 46-time Greek Champions didn’t create any classic scoring chances. The 0-0 draw was capped off with Kostas Manolas entering the game. The 30-year old hadn’t officially worn an Olympiacos jersey since 2014.
With the notable absences due to Copa Africa, we already knew that January would be a tough month. To add to that havoc, every team is losing players due to Covid and Olympiacos are no different. Martins is aware that a 9-point lead from second place AEK Athens is far from a safe cushion. The Reds face off against Asteras Tripoli, Panathinaikos, PAS Giannina and PAOK this month in the Greek Superleague. All four of these teams are in the top half of the Superleague standings and will not be a walk in the park for a currently underwhelming Olympiacos side.