Before Ernesto Valverde coached Barcelona, before he coached Athletic Club Bilbao, before he coached Valencia... he had two stints with Greek superpower Olympiacos. There, he is still highly regarded for delivering three Superleague titles and two Greek Cup titles.
One of those came in as crazy and as dramatic a match as you’re likely to see.
Their rivals, AEK Athens, took an early lead through Argentina’s Ismael Blanco, who scored a brace inside the first 8 minutes. At halftime and down 0-2, Valverde introduced English forward Matt Derbyshire in place of a midfielder, and it paid off in just two minutes. He got the goal to make it 1-2 and put Olympiacos back in the game.
Olympiacos kept the pressure on while AEK barely kept their advantage. Then, in the 72nd, Dudu Cearense got the equalizer for Olympiacos after forcing the ball over the line in a series of bloopers. Finally, Valverde’s men had completed the comeback.
Yet it was all undone by Argentine international Ignacio Sccoco, who scored in the 90th minute for what seemed to be the winner, 2-3. In the celebrations, Sotirios Kyrgiakos would get sent off from the bench.
But Olympiacos kept on believing, thumping a long ball forward which was flicked towards the box. Derbyshire was at the right place at the right time and leapt, connecting with the ball and knocking it past the keeper. 3-3 in the 96th! Onto extra time!
In extra time, yet another Argentine would score, this time for Olympiacos. Luciano Galletti put Valverde’s men ahead for the first time in the match, 4-3, after a well-engineered set piece play. Yet despite 18 minutes still being left in extra time, Galletti made the bizarre choice of taking his shirt off in celebration despite being on a yellow. He was duly sent off.
Another Olympiacos player, Avraam Papadopoulos, was sent off in the 107th for a second yellow as he committed a professional foul to stop a breakaway. Seconds later it would be Sccoco again who, perhaps mis-hitting a cross, would put the ball past Antonios Nikopolidis to make it 4-4.
Onto penalties! Where it got even more crazy!
All first four penalty takers on each side scored, meaning the 5th penalty was effectively sudden death. Then, AEK’s Daniel Majstorović would blast his shot off the post, setting up a potential winner for Olympiacos. But Predrag Đorđević’s penalty would be stopped by Luis Saja, ensuring the shootout would go on to sudden death proper.
The next three shooters on each side scored, including both keepers, making it 8-8. Then, pressure again as Nikopolodis stopped Nikolaos Georgeas’s shot. But Olympiacos would waste their chance yet again, this time with Paraskevas Antzas taking a poor penalty that would be blocked by Saja.
Since Olympiacos was down two men, the order would restart now after 9 takers. This time, 7 takers on each side would all score, including keeper Saja for the second time, making it 14-14.
This was now threatening to become comically long, but Nikopolidis had other plans. First, he stopped Agustín Pelletieri’s second penalty in the shootout. Then, he would step up to take the next one. The Euro 2004 champion would slot it past his opposite number and sprint away in celebration.
Finally, Olympiacos were Greek Cup champions.