“Legend! Ecstasy! The Triumph of Triumphs!” were among the headlines in the Greek media on Wednesday as the nation basked in the glory of Olympiakos Piraeus's stunning 3-2 win at Arsenal in the Champions League.
Olympiakos, whose nickname is ‘The Legend,’ recorded their first win on English soil in 50 years, benefiting from a woeful mistake by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina but running out worthy winners to seal their first points in Group F.
Goal News led the tributes to the Greek champions after their 12 previous visits to England had ended in defeat, declaring: “Olympiakos was magical in London, bringing Arsenal to its knees and stunning the planet!”
Sport Day followed suit, stating: “You loved it, we loved it; a massive victory for Greek soccer!”
According to Argentine midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, the secret to Olympiakos's success, thanks to Felipe Pardo, an Ospina own goal and halftime substitute Alfred Finnbogason, was simple – Marco Silva's team came to The Emirates without any fear.
“We came to Arsenal to play our soccer and that was our secret; we tried to do things we wanted from the outset to do and not just come to play defensively to try and contain Arsenal,” he said.
“We played our normal aggressive attacking game and scored three goals which is not easy away from home in this competition,” added Cambiasso. “Olympiakos has learned to suffer and we as players learned that we need to sacrifice certain things for each other. It's a huge victory for the whole team.”
Although Greeks are celebrating a historic win, things might well have been different this season.
Olympiakos's place in the Champions League came into question over the close season when club owner Vangelis Marinakis was the subject of investigations into a match-fixing scandal.
Marinakis was banned from active roles in soccer in June and had to report to police every 15 days on strict bail terms.
He is accused of being involved in and directing a criminal organization as well as aiding and abetting blackmailing, extortion, bribery and fraud.
Despite the probe, which could take years to get to trial – if it goes to trial – European soccer's governing body UEFA announced in June that Olympiakos's Champions League place was not in danger while issuing a firm warning.
“There are investigations in Greece (and) the situation could change…. as we all know, this kind of investigation can take some time, we need to have some clear evidence,” UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said at the time. “I think our bodies have shown they are very firm when it comes to match-fixing; if there is any evidence, they will take this into account."
The latest Greek soccer scandal, following the ‘Koriopolis’ match-fixing probe of 2011, emerged in April when a 173-page document was revealed by prosecutor Aristidis Korreas and prompted a nationwide investigation.
Korreas's document contained transcripts of telephone conversations tapped by the National Intelligence Service. It is alleged that Marinakis and Hellenic Soccer Federation (EPO) officials Giorgos Sarris and Theodoros Kouridis were responsible for directing a criminal organization from 2011 with the aim of “absolute control of Greek soccer's fate by the methods of blackmailing and fraud.”
Marinakis was his typically hands-on self after the victory over Arsenal, seen celebrating and posing for pictures with the Olympiakos supporters in the stands after the final whistle.
But while affairs off the pitch cast a shadow over the club, they could not take the shine off the spirit and style displayed by Silva's team on Tuesday, especially after a deflating 3-0 home defeat in their opener against Bayern Munich.
With Arsenal on the rocks at the bottom of the group without a point and Olympiakos now level on three with their next opponents Dinamo Zagreb, who lost 5-0 at Bayern on Tuesday, the Greeks could be set for more European glory nights this season.