The week’s European action has concluded and no one sent shockwaves around the continent quite like Thrylos’ emphatic win at Arsenal. Prior to Tuesday’s landmark victory the Reds had failed to win on English soil in twelve previous attempts. This week saw the heroes from Piraeus travel to the island nation and put that terrible record to bed, in fine style.
The English media, in typical fashion, looked to find any possible excuse and reason why they lost the game. David Ospina is not good enough to feature for Arsenal in a Champions League match, a player with 58 international caps for Colombia. Arsene Wenger has lost his way and he should do the honourable thing and leave his position at the club, bringing the club three Premier League titles, six FA Cups and a Champions League final during his tenure. Injuries to Mikel Arteta, Mathieu Flamini, Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin’s return from injury and Giroud’s suspension all used as excuses. Of course, an English side could never come up against a side from a “lesser” footballing nation such as Greece and simply be out played and the second best team on the night.
English arrogance and self-loathing aside, Tuesday night was a tremendous occasion and important result. The team’s good defensive efforts from the opening day were never recognised as a result of a freak Thomas Müller goal and calamitous finale to the match. Tuesday was just reward for a similar defensive display.
Arsenal did score twice, however, it could have been significantly higher the way Walcott and Sanchez are able to find space and run at ease with the ball. Both players scored on the night but will have been wondering how they left the stadium with only a goal apiece. Siovas and Botia performed magnificently in front of the superb Roberto. Arsenal had 17 shots on Roberto’s goal, more than double the amount Ospina’s goal faced. Nine of the Arsenal’s shots were on target, Roberto was called into action time-after-time and came up with the answers every time. Midway through the second half the Arsenal pressure was mounting and in amidst several Arsenal efforts Roberto produced a magnificent double-save to keep Arsenal at bay. With Roberto grounded when a quick third successive effort came in, the Mammoth-like Omar Elabdellaoui came hurtling through the six yard box to get the ball cleared with his head.
Felipe Pardo after the game spoke of how his goal had come from the training ground. Pardo explained in the build-up to the game it had been identified that the edge of the box was an area Arsenal failed to defend from corners, Silva worked on this and it paid off. Again, supporters of Arsenal and some corners of the English media pointed to the fortunate deflection Pardo’s shot took. Never-the-less it was a perfectly executed training ground move, the second Thrylos goal also coming from a set piece is proof that whatever Silva has the team doing in training throughout the week is working.
Not just in technical execution, Olympiakos looked a team far hungrier than Arsenal. Olympiakos looked a side that understood the size of the task in hand, not an arrogant side from the biggest league in the world who thought merely turning up would be enough to take three points from the champions of Greece. Every Thrylos player was committed to the team’s cause – be that Kasami’s sheer determination and will to win, Cambiasso’s experience and almost clairvoyant reading of the game, Botia putting his body on the line with a last ditch tackle or Sebá’s tireless running and unselfish play always looking to find a team mate in the centre, Olympiakos were a team. Each and everyone playing the game of their lives and for the collective good.
This season, under Marco Silva, Olympiakos have started to look a genuine tight unit. There appears to be the most positive team spirit within the group that’s been on show at the club for a number of seasons. If, as many people feared, we had returned from London with a loss the whole outlook to our season would have been very different. Our European season would have been hanging by a thread with there being no margin for error in the upcoming double-header with Dinamo Zagreb. Instead, the team will travel to Croatia level on points with their hosts and full of optimism that all is still to play for in the group.
Tuesday’s win was a massive step to the hope of securing a place in the knockout stages of the European competition. Most importantly, it was the confidence jab in the arm that this side so desperately needed. A team that is getting to know each other, and growing stronger each game, can now be buoyed by the fact that when called upon they can be a match for even the biggest of European sides. The 2015/16 season, all of a sudden, just got a little more interesting.