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Season review: Greece

Published: Friday 5 June 2009, 15.54CET
Olympiacos CFP's dominance in Greece continued as they won the double while despite finishing runners-up Salonika side PAOK FC missed out on a UEFA Champions League spot, losing to Panathinakos FC in the play-offs.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Athens
Season review: Greece
Luciano Galletti (right) inspired Olympiacos' double success ©Getty Images
Published: Friday 5 June 2009, 15.54CET

Season review: Greece

Olympiacos CFP's dominance in Greece continued as they won the double while despite finishing runners-up Salonika side PAOK FC missed out on a UEFA Champions League spot, losing to Panathinakos FC in the play-offs.

Olympiacos CFP's dominance of Greek football continued as they won a domestic double, while despite finishing second PAOK FC lost out to Henk ten Cate's Panathinakos FC in the end-of-season play-off for a UEFA Champions League place. Promoted at the end of last season, Thrasyvoulos FC and Panserraikos FC both made swift returns to the second division, and OFI Crete FC were also relegated to end a 33-year spell in the top flight.

Champions: Olympiacos CFP
Olympiacos took their 37th Greek title, and 12th in 13 seasons, in some style as they were confirmed as champions earlier than ever before, on 22 March with three games to spare. Ernesto Valverde left the club at the end of the campaign on a high after marshalling a side that lost just three games, conceded only 14 goals – none against their main rivals, AEK Athens FC, Panathinaikos and PAOK – and were without Darko Kovačević for the second half of the season, after the prolific striker underwent heart surgery.

Cup final: Olympiacos CFP 4-4 AEK Athens FC (aet, Olympiacos win 15-14 on penalties)
Goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis was the hero of an unforgettable Greek Cup final, which kicked off at 20.30 and finished with a mammoth shoot-out just before midnight. Ismael Blanco struck twice to give AEK a 2-0 lead at the interval, but Matt Derbyshire and Dudu responded in the second half. Nacho Scocco's 90th-minute screamer looked to have won it for AEK, but Derbyshire's header forced extra-time. Luciano Galletti then put Olympiacos ahead, but was dismissed shortly afterwards and was followed by team-mate Avraam Papadopoulos, with Scocco equalising against the nine men. The two sides took 17 penalties each in the shoot-out, with Nikopolidis saving the last of them from Agustin Pelletieri to win the tie.

European places
Olympiacos CFP – UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
Panathinaikos FC – UEFA Champions League third qualifying round
AEK Athens FC – UEFA Europa League play-off
PAOK FC – UEFA Europa League third qualifying round
Larissa FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round

Player of the year: Luciano Galletti (Olympiacos CFP)
In his second season with the champions, the Argentinian winger was a real leader on the pitch. The league's joint highest scorer, many of his 14 strikes were crucial on Olympiacos' path to glory – especially his spectacular strike in the 1-0 win at AEK in February. The fervour with which fans at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium chant his name is a measure of his standing among the club's fans.

One to watch: Vassilis Koutsianikoulis (Ergotelis FC)
Capped at youth level, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder scored in high-profile wins against Panathinaikos and Olympiacos and became a hot property in the Super League, with PAOK eventually signing him amid fierce competition in May.

Leading scorers: Ismael Blanco, AEK Athens FC; Luciano Galletti, Olympiacos CFP (14)

Surprise package: Panthrakikos FC
In their first top-flight season, the Komotini-based side defied their pre-season billing as relegation favourites. Emilio Ferrera's men, led by Lorenzo 'Sito' Riera – younger brother of Liverpool FC's Albert Riera – secured an eleventh-placed finish and earned respect and admiration throughout Greece.

Number: 12
The Greek record number of titles won by Olympiacos' Serbian captain Predrag Djordjević, who retired aged 36 at the end of the season having joined the Piraeus club from Paniliakos FC in 1996.

Quote
"Some people think unexpected titles are the most important ones, but for me it's more satisfying to win the ones you are expected to win, because you have to prove why you are the favourites and overcome fierce opposition from rivals who want to rob you of the crown."
Olympiacos coach Ernesto Valverde, prior to leaving the club

Last updated: 05/06/09 18.04CET

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