Olympiakos wins the double once again

Olympiakos made it back-to-back league and cup doubles last night with a 3-0 win over AEK in the Greek Cup Final played in Iraklion, Crete. It was an evenly balanced contest for the first hour, but Olympiakos was dominant in the game’s final half hour. The Piraeus club opened the scoring in the 61st minute when Cypriot striker Michalis Constantinou got his foot onto a fabulous cross, delivered from the right flank by Pantelis Kafes. An own goal 10 minutes later, headed in by Vladimir Ivic from a Predrag Djordjevic cross, doubled the lead for Olympiakos. A minute before the end of regular time, Uruguayan Nery Castillo, who joined the action from the bench in the 75th minute, spectacularly wove his way around several AEK defenders to sneak the ball into the net for the final 3-0 score. Constaninou was awarded the cup final’s MVP prize. The Piraeus club, which also won last year’s cup final with the same score against Thessaloniki club Aris, goes into this weekend’s last round of league competition having assured top spot for its ninth league triumph in 10 seasons. «We’re glad we pleased the fans who came out here to offer their support,» said Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied, while noting that this was his first ever league and cup double as a coach. AEK went into the game a day after coach Fernando Santos informed his players of his decision to depart following Sunday’s final league game. AEK, which holds second place in the standings with a two-point lead over Panathinaikos, needs at least a draw against Xanthi at home to assure second place and a Champions League berth next season. The lead-up to last night’s encounter was dominated by major security concerns and plans aimed at keeping rival fans from clashing or even causing widespread havoc in the Cretan city. No outbreaks of violence were reported until late last night. There had been some concern at Olympiakos over the absence of its star Brazilian player Rivaldo, who has been sidelined for weeks by a mystery virus. But his teammates appeared unaffected by the absence. The Piraeus club has refrained from providing details about Rivaldo’s condition. «We didn’t deserve this result,» Santos told the post-match news conference. «We reacted well after conceding the first goal, and pressured to equalize. But that’s when the second goal [for Olympiakos] came, which created problems. It was a heavy result considering the effort made by my players.»  A day ahead of the match, when Santos announced his resignation, AEK’s captain Costas Katsouranis declared his team would also play for its outgoing coach. Opinion about the Portuguese coach’s decision to go has remained split. Responding to a reporter’s question, Santos said his decision to leave the club was not detrimental to his team’s performance yesterday. «No. The players provided the answer to that question,» Santos remarked. «If they were affected, they wouldn’t have played the way they did for the first 60 minutes.» Interestingly, in three encounters played by the clubs this season – two league game and yesterday’s cup final – Olympiakos emerged victorious in all with a 9-1 aggregate score.