Soccer-Olympiakos beat Fiorentina in extra time to win Europa Conference League


Soccer Football - Europa Conference League - Final - Olympiacos v Fiorentina - Agia Sophia Stadium, Athens, Greece - May 30, 2024 Olympiacos' Kostas Fortounis and Rodinei celebrate with teammates after winning the Europa Conference League final REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) -Olympiakos beat Fiorentina 1-0 after extra time in the Europa Conference League final on Wednesday when a late winner from Ayoub El Kaabi gave the Greek club their first major European trophy.

In a match that was high on intensity and physicality but low on quality in front of goal, neither side could find the net in the regulation 90 minutes before El Kaabi netted the winner in the 116th minute.

With the game seemingly headed to a penalty shootout, El Kaabi got in front of his marker to head home Santiago Hezze's cross but the players and fans had a long, nervous wait for VAR to check for offside before the goal was awarded.

It was the Morocco striker's 11th goal in the Conference League this season, all of them in the knockout stages, and 16th in Europe after he also scored in the Europa League qualifiers and group stage.

He had scored five times across two legs when they beat Premier League side Aston Villa in the semi-finals.

The trophy presentation was also a moment to treasure for Olympiakos manager Jose Luis Mendilibar, who won the Europa League with Sevilla last season and took over the Greek club only in February.

"I am very happy that we achieved something that the club had not achieved before. We will celebrate, we will cheer and then we will get back to work for what comes next," Mendilibar said.

The Greek fans in the AEK Arena erupted when the ball went in and the volume went up once again when VAR confirmed the goal which ensures Olympiakos play in the Europa League next season.

Outside the stadium, thousands of Olympiakos fans gathered at the port of Piraeus and celebrated wildly after the final whistle, lighting red flares and fireworks.

Olympiakos became the first Greek club to lift a European trophy, with Panathinaikos coming closest in 1971 when they lost the European Cup final to Ajax Amsterdam.

The result marked a second consecutive defeat in the Europa Conference League final for Fiorentina, who had reached this season's summit clash without losing a single game.

Vincenzo Italiano's side also lost the Coppa Italia final last season, marking three heartbreaking cup final defeats in two years as the wait for a first trophy since 2001 continues.

"Amazing, for Olympiakos and me. Really proud of my guys," 34-year-old forward Stevan Jovetic, who spent five years at Fiorentina, told TNT Sports.

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

(Reporting by Rohith Nair and Karolos Grohmann; editing by Clare Fallon)

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