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Season review: Greece

Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 8.56CET
Led by astute coach Ernesto Valverde, Olympiacos FC won their 39th league title, finishing seven points clear of closest pursuers Panathinaikos FC before clinching a domestic double.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Athens
Season review: Greece
Olympiacos won their 39th Super League title ©AFP
Published: Monday 28 May 2012, 8.56CET

Season review: Greece

Led by astute coach Ernesto Valverde, Olympiacos FC won their 39th league title, finishing seven points clear of closest pursuers Panathinaikos FC before clinching a domestic double.

Top by late September, Olympiacos FC relinquished their lead on three occasions before cantering towards a 14th league title in 16 years, and their 39th overall. Although Panathinaikos FC momentarily kept pace, they gradually faded, ending seven points behind the champions. Atromitos FC earned a top-four finish for the first time in their history.

Champions: Olympiacos FC
The Piraeus club ruled supreme on several levels, boasting an imperious +53 goal difference, while winning more games than any other team, 23 of a possible 30. A 1-0 defeat at Xanthi FC in January proved to be an important spur, with Olympiacos then going nine matches without conceding in all competitions, before a 1-0 triumph against Panaitolikos GFS secured the title with three games remaining. Their players showed enviable character and the mentality of champions after twice overhauling a five-point deficit at the top. In the process they earned their coach, Ernesto Valverde, legendary status, despite his decision to step down at the end of the season.

Cup final: Atromitos FC 1-2 Olympiacos FC
Their victory set the seal on a 15th domestic double, in what was Valverde's final game in charge. Olympiacos broke the deadlock when Algerian striker Rafik Djebbour combined with fellow countryman Djamel Abdoun and found the net with an accomplished finish. Atromitos, appearing in their second successive Greek Cup final, responded well after the break and Matias Iglesias's equaliser on 74 minutes forced extra time. Despite the setback, Olympiacos regained control of the match and, just as penalties loomed, David Fuster settled matters with a powerful header. "It was a very emotional moment for me," said Valverde. "I always hoped that the fans would appreciate my work; however, this was an amazing experience."

*European places 
Olympiacos FC - UEFA Champions League, group stage
Panathinaikos FC - UEFA Champions League, third qualifying round
AEK Athens FC - UEFA Europa League, play-off
Atromitos FC - UEFA Europa League, third qualifying round
PAOK FC - UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Kevin Mirallas (Olympiacos FC)
The Belgian striker finished as the league's top scorer with 20 goals from 25 appearances and was voted Greek Super League player of the season for 2011/12 by the Greek public and a panel of experts. Possessing blistering pace and a cool finish, Mirallas has established himself as a firm fans' favourite.

One to watch: Panagiotis Vlachodimos (Xanthi FC)
Signed from VfB Stuttgart last summer, the German-born prodigy lit up the Super League and enhanced his reputation with goals against Panathinaikos and Olympiacos, where he will play his football next season after agreeing a transfer. A Greek Under-21 international, the versatile forward was duly voted 'Best Newcomer' at the end of season awards.

Surprise package: Atromitos FC
Atromitos surpassed all expectations by securing fourth spot, their highest finish in the Greek top flight. Tribute must be paid to coach Giorgos Donis, who left the club on 23 May, for successfully blending exuberant youth and wily experience to ensure his side reached the Greek Cup final for a second consecutive year. Kostas Mitroglou scored 16 of his team's 32 goals, while young full-backs Kostas Giannoulis and Giannis Skondras showed maturity beyond their years. 

Leading scorer: Kevin Mirallas, Olympiacos FC (20)

Relegated: Ergotelis FC, Panetolikos FC, Doxa Dramas FC

Promoted: Veria FC, Panthrakikos FC, Platanias

Number: 27
Valverde has won three league titles with Olympiacos, with all three sealed on matchday 27 (with three games to go).

Quote:
"Despite some setbacks along the way, I knew that our mentality would be translated into results and that we would prevail eventually."
Olympiacos coach Ernesto Valverde, after winning the league title.

Last updated: 19/07/12 17.10CET

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