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Olympiakos win Conference League to become first Greek side to lift European trophy

By Vincent Ashitey
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Olympiacos have claimed the UEFA Europa Conference League trophy after defeating Fiorentina 1-0 after extra time in the final in Athens.

It is the club's first-ever senior European triumph and the first major European trophy claimed by a Greek club.

A giant of Greek football with 47 domestic league titles, Piraeus-based Olympiacos have not made a huge splash in European tournaments in their history.

In fact, this season's UEFA Youth League title was their first continental trophy with the Conference League representing their first piece of senior European silverware.

They were powered to the win over Fiorentina in Athens courtesy of Ayoub El Kaabi, who scored in the dying minutes of extra time.

"Amazing, for Olympiacos and me. Really proud of my guys," forward Stevan Jovetic, who spent five years at Fiorentina, told TNT Sports after the final.

"We did great all year and deserved it. I have to compliment Fiorentina. (Losing) two years in a row, a shame for them."

Jose Mendilibar's side entered the Conference League after finishing third in Group A in the Europa League behind West Ham and Freiburg.

As a result, they had to play one extra knockout round than their final opponent Fiorentina, who were one of the Conference League group winners.

It wasn't all plain sailing for the Greek club on the road to the final. After getting past Ferencvaros with two 1-0 wins in the first knockout phase, they then met Maccabi Tel Aviv in the final 16.

The Israeli club crushed Olympiacos 4-1 in Greece, leaving the Piraeus club with a lot to do in the second leg. At a neutral venue in Serbia, they came back and beat Maccabi 6-1 against the odds to advance to the last eight.

In the quarter-finals, Olympiacos defeated Turkish heavyweights Fenerbahce after a 3-2 home win and 1-1 draw in Istanbul.

Their biggest test came in the semi-finals when they drew Premier League club Aston Villa. El Kaabi's hat-trick fired them to a stunning 4-2 win at Villa Park before an El Kaabi brace helped them to close out the tie with a 2-0 home win and book their spot in the final not far from home.

Finishing their league season in third place had assured Olympiacos of Conference League qualification for next season already but their triumph in Athens means they will instead progress to the second-tier Europa League.

Mendilibar, who was appointed in February, also guided Sevilla to Europa League success last season.

As for losing finalists Fiorentina, it was their second loss in the Conference League final in two years - a bitter pill to swallow. They fell at the final hurdle against West Ham in 2022/23 as well.

Vincenzo Italiano's side had made it the whole way through the tournament without losing a single match until the decider in Athens.

After finishing eighth in Serie A, Fiorentina were assured of European football before the match and will thus return to the Conference League next season.