SPORTS

Reds win the best Greek Cup final ever, defeating AEK in the penalty shootout

Olympiakos and AEK played out an unforgettable Greek soccer cup final on Saturday that finished 3-3 in the 90 minutes and 4-4 after extra time, but it was Olympiakos who eventually won the cup in a thrilling penalty shootout. The victory means Olympiakos has completed a league-and-cup domestic double, the second in a row. Argentine Ismael Blanco scored twice in the first 10 minutes for AEK, in the fourth and the eighth, to give his team a 2-0 lead until halftime. The introduction of English striker Matt Derbyshire at the interval gave Olympiakos a fresh boost. Derbyshire had an immediate impact for coach Ernesto Valverde’s team, pulling one goal back in the 47th minute with a bullet header, while Olympiakos equalized in the 70th minute after AEK goalkeeper Sebastian Saja failed to clear the ball from a Fernando Belluschi free kick, allowing Dudu Cearense to make it 2-2. Although both teams were playing a cautious game until the 90th minute, knowing that any error could prove fatal, Nacho Scocco scored from the left side of the area to give AEK what looked like the winning goal. During the celebrations AEK defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos, who was on the bench, was sent off for making an obscene gesture to Olympiakos fans. Nevertheless, Olympiakos had not said its final word and managed to take the game to extra time with another Derbyshire goal in the very last minute of injury time (3-3). But there was plenty more drama to follow in extra time, as Olympiakos took the lead for the first time (4-3) in the 102nd minute thanks to a right-foot shot by another Argentine, Luciano Galletti. However, he took off his shirt while celebrating, forcing the referee to book him for the second time. Olympiakos was left with nine players just three minutes later when Avraam Papadopoulos was also shown the yellow card for the second time. AEK made its two-man advantage tell three minutes into the second half of extra time as Scocco once again scored from the side of the area, to make the final score 4-4. As if the proper game had not been dramatic enough, the penalty shootout kept fans gasping for breath for about 20 minutes. After eight shots that found the target, AEK’s Danijel Majstorovic hit the post of Nikopolidis, but Olympiakos skipper Predrag Djordjevic who was playing the last match of his long career failed to give the cup to his team as Saja parried his effort. Saja stopped one more penalty, by Paraskevas Antzas, but this proved too little for AEK to win the Cup as Antonis Nikopolidis was the one to have the last laugh. The keeper who had led Greece to the European Championship triumph in 2004 parried the penalties of Nikos Georgeas and another Argentine Agustin Pelletieri and scored two kicks of his own as Olympiakos won the shootout with an unprecedented for a Greek cup final 15-14 score.