Morocco international winger JAOUAD ZAIRI (11) of FC Olympiakos Piraeus, whose cross led to the match-winning goal in injury time, heads the ball away in front of FC Panathinaikos Athens’ veteran Brazil World Cup midfielder GILBERTO SILVA (15), whose shot set up the late goal that was disallowed for offsides, during the stormy and controversial DAY OF ETERNAL ENEMIES DERBY at the Karaiskakis Stadium in the Greek capital city urban area of Piraeus. (AP photo)
The “DAY OF ETERNAL ENEMIES” Derby in Athens did not disappoint to say the least. This particular intra-city clash truly did have it all, then. Excitement, suspense, drama, and, of course, controversy — perhaps more than enough as a matter of fact.
A frenzied finish involved a perfectly-valid goal denied to the visitors and an injury time winner which sent the home supporters into a wild state of delirium as FC OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS defeated long-time, bitter cross-town adversary FC PANATHINAIKOS ATHENS 2-1 in a most critical Greek Super League match.
Defending champions Panathinaikos entered the game seven points adrift in the standings with just eight contests remaining in the championship and needing nothing but absolute victory. The Shamrock, however, proceeded to give away most of the possession for the entire first half and went down 1-0 after only twenty minutes. 34-year-old, three-time Brazil World Cup international GILBERTO SILVA, the club captain and former FC Arsenal midfielder, conceded a fateful free kick which Olympiakos took full advantage of.
On a set piece obviously practiced to perfection at the training ground, Belgium international KEVIN MIRALLAS of Olympiakos positioned himself on the end of the Panathinaikos wall and then peeled off at the last moment on a run into space; Argentina international midfielder ARIEL IBAGAZA slid The Legend’s leading scorer a precise pass and the striker on loan from French side OSC Lille proceeded to shoot his 10th goal in the Greek Super League this season.
Belgium international striker KEVIN MIRALLAS, the on-loan striker who leads Olympiakos in the Greek Super League with 10 goals now, whips the ball past Panathinaikos’ experienced France international defender JEAN-ALAIN BOUMSONG (4) during the Derby of Eternal Enemies. (greeksoccer.com)
Not for the last time on the evening, thick clouds of smoke emanating from flares lit by elated Olympiakos supporters celebrating the goal by Mirallas forced the referee to hold up the match.
Despite the utter lack of possession and opportunity in the first half, the defending champions did generate one chance just before the half to bring about the game’s first great controversy. Greece World Cup defender and Olympiakos captain VASILIS TOROSIDIS, in an aerial dual with Panathinaikos winger SOTIRIS NINIS, headed the ball off his own arm in the penalty area. To Trifylli, however, had their appeals for a spot kick turned down as a foul was whistled against Ninis for what was a minimal amount of contact.
It is unknown exactly what Portuguese manager JESUALDO FERREIRA told his troops during the halftime talk. Surely, it was reiterated that the current champion could not expect to retain its Greek Super League title in the wake of a loss to its fierce arch-enemy in the great intra-city derby match. Whatever the case, a completely different Panathinaikos team appeared on the pitch for the second half.
At the vanguard of the offensive revival for The Shamrock was Argentine winger SEBASTIAN LETO, one of the very few players in history who has ever signed for Panathinaikos after first playing for ultimate rival Olympiakos; two minutes before the hour, thanks to the influential 24-year-old, To Trifylli pulled level.
Greece World Cup defender and FC Olympiakos Piraeus club captain VASILIS TOROSIDIS (35) found himself in the thick of controversy throughout the most recent Derby of Eternal Enemies clash with FC Panathinaikos Athens and was ultimately given his marching orders with a straight red card. (neoskosmos.com)
Leto flighted an in-swinging free kick from the right into the box looking for Spanish teammate and defender JOSU SARRIEGI, who was unable to make contact. The Olympiakos defense did not either, though, and so the ball was permitted to bounce right past the diving Spanish netminder URKO PARDO for the equalizing goal — game on!
Spain international winger ALBERT RIERA, the big-money buy this past summer from English Premier League outfit FC Liverpool, attempted to restore the Olympiakos advantage and fired a couple of dangerous drives that Greece World Cup goalkeeper ALEXANDROS TZORVAS did well to cope with for Panathinaikos.
Another pair of ex-Liverpool players combined to generate a great chance for The Shamrock at the other end shortly thereafter. France World Cup striker DJIBRIL CISSE, the leading scorer in all the Greek Super League with 18 goals this term, latched onto a cross by Leto and headed a dangerous ball down towards the far post. But the Olympiakos goalkeeper Urko, at full stretch, managed to deal with the threat.
Panathinaikos understood full well that this was a must-win situation and so Ferreira looked for fresh legs, sending France World Cup winger SIDNEY GOVOU on to see about creating or scoring a deciding goal; Olympiakos, for its part, did not appear likely to settle for a draw and trotted out an attack-minded player, themselves, in Serbia World Cup striker MARKO PANTELIC as full time approached.
With less than ten minutes to play, the defending champions looked to have grabbed the goal they so desperately required. The Panathinaikos captain, the highly-experienced Gilberto Silva, corraled a ball at the top of the box from a Leto corner and sent in a shot. Urko blocked the effort, but left an inviting rebound that Greece World Cup midfielder KOSTAS KATSOURANIS quickly netted for The Shamrock.
Argentine winger SEBASTIAN LETO, who was bought by FC Panathinaikos Athens from Premier League club FC Liverpool for a reported 5.0 million English pounds after a season out on loan in the Greek Super League with FC Olympiakos Piraeus, picked a fine time to score his first goal of the season in the most recent Derby of Eternal Enemies tussle. (tempo.gr)
At that moment, tragedy stuck Panathinaikos in the form of the linesman’s raised flag. A perfectly valid-looking goal was cruelly called back for a supposed offsides violation. For the officiating crew, the television replays did everything but confirm the dreadful decision.
As the match moved into time added on, Morocco international JAOUAD ZAIRI floated a cross into the area that would bounced off the shoulder of Brazil international midfielder DUDU, a fellow second half substitute for Olympiakos of the winger. The ball flicked on to Algeria World Cup striker RAFIK DJEBBOUR, the recent signing of Thrylos from AEK Athens who scored his first goal for The Legend just last week. Djebbour chested the ball down and squeezed his shot through the legs of the hapless Tzorvas.
The Panathinaikos defense looked to the match referee and his linesman. The Shamrock felt that Pantelic had either been offsides or interferring with Tzorvas as the winning goal was scored, if not both. To great the defending champions’s great dismay, the appeal fell on deaf ears.
Choas arrived on the heels of the controversial strike. Yet again, thick clouds of smoke from flares descended upon the pitch and the referee, again, had no other choice but to delay the restart for a considerable period of time. Soon the Olympiakos captain Torosidis would be dismissed for a head butt directed at the Panathinaikos winger Leto.
With the final whistle came the pitch invasion…
2 – FC Olympiakos Piraeus ————— Mirallas 20′, Djebbour 90+1′
1 – FC Panathinaikos Athens ———— Leto 58′
FC OLYMPIAKOS PIRAEUS : Urko ; Bravo, Modesto, Mellberg, Papadopoulos, Torosidis ; Riera (Pantelic 90′), Ibagaza, Fuster (Dudu 74′) ; Mirallas (Zairi 78′), Djebbour
FC PANATHINAIKOS ATHENS : Torvas ; Kante, Sarriegi, Boumsong, Vyntra ; Leto, Katsouranis, Gilberto Silva, Karagounis (Simao 80′), Ninis (Govou 67′) ; Cisse