Aston Villa’s European dream dies in Athens after Olympiacos defeat – The Irish News


Aston Villa’s European dream is over after losing to Olympiacos in the semi-final of the Europa Conference League.

Villa were eyeing a first European final since 1982 but, with the ancient Acropolis in the backdrop of the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis, their hopes are now in ruins after a 6-2 aggregate defeat.

They travelled to Athens needing a Herculean effort to overturn a 4-2 deficit from the first leg, but limped to a 2-0 defeat on the night, with last week’s hat-trick hero Ayoub El Kaabi scoring the goals which sent the Greek side through to their first-ever European final.

It concluded a miserable season on the continent for Premier League sides as there is no English representative in a final for the first time since 2019/20 and Unai Emery will see this isas  a huge missed opportunity to win a fifth European trophy in a tournament they were favourites for.

They will hope not be back in this third-tier competition any time soon as they can seal Champions League qualification at the weekend, which will cap an impressive season.

Olympiacos owner Evangelos Marinakis, who also owns Nottingham Forest, was seen celebrating his club reaching the final across the city at the home of deadly rivals AEK Athens in three weeks.

Ollie Watkins shows his dejection after Aston Villa’s European adventure came to an end
Ollie Watkins shows his dejection after Aston Villa’s European adventure came to an end (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Villa’s hopes of a comeback were effectively ended after just 10 minutes as El Kaabi extended Olympiacos’ lead to the sound of a near-defeaning noise.

The Premier League side were sliced open by a long ball, former Wolves attacker Daniel Podence teed up Quini, whose cross was bundled home by El Kaabi.

Villa now had to find three goals just to send the tie to extra time and they had plenty of moments in the first half but were missing the quality when they needed it the most.

Moussa Diaby broke through in the 30th minute after Leon Bailey had been fouled but home goalkeeper Kostas Tzolakis blocked his effort and then Douglas Luiz curled the free-kick over when play was brought back.

Olympiacos celebrate their victory
Olympiacos celebrate their victory (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Tzolakis had to be at his best on the stroke of half-time to claw Bailey’s deflected shot over as Villa pushed for one back before the break.

They went for it in the second with Jhon Duran tamely shooting at Tzolakis and Ezri Konsa heading over from a corner.

They were becoming increasingly desperate, but still could not create any clear-cut chances and the hosts took advantage of big gaps at the back.

And El Kaabi’s fifth goal of the tie in the 81st minute killed it as he raced clear and powered past Emiliano Martinez. It was initially ruled out for offside but VAR overturned the decision.

Villa had nowhere to go as they suffered a Greek tragedy, with their Europa Conference League campaign ending in a different part of Athens than they were wanting.





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