Olympiacos CFP match-winner Ieroklis Stoltidis dedicated the Greek champions' place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League to the club's supporters following Tuesday's stunning 3-0 win over Werder Bremen in Athens.
The 32-year-old, often an unsung hero in Panagiotis Lemonis's team, stepped forward in the absence of captain Predrag Djordjević with two goals and an assist for Darko Kovacević as the Piraeus club qualifed from the group stage for the first time since the 1998/99 season. "This victory and qualification is for the fans," he said. "They have waited many years for this moment and I dedicate this achievement to them. We fully deserved to go through because we have shown great character and form in this campaign."
'Mentality has changed'
Stoltidis opened the scoring with a scorching drive after just 12 minutes and capped a superb display with the third goal from a Kovacević knock-down in the second half after he had provided the cross for the Serbian striker's headed effort minutes earlier. He declared afterwards that Olympiacos were a much stronger proposition than in previous seasons. "Our mentality in matches has changed. What I want to see is the team continuing to play as we have been during this season. It was an amazing night and the fans deserve it."
Lemonis paid tribute to Stoltidis in his post-match press conference, describing him as a "born winner". The coach said: "Stoltidis is having an excellent season. He has proved that he is a very important player for Olympiacos, because apart from his technical qualities, he is a born winner." The midfielder returned the compliment, saying that the Lemonis's coaching principles could take the club far in the competition. "I like the philosophy of the team and the way we are playing.
For the fans
"The fans still deserve more and we hope we can deliver but tonight is all about celebrating this achievement," he added. The win rounded off an excellent Group C campaign for Olympiacos who finished second in the group, level on eleven points with winners Real Madrid CF having earlier ended a run of 31 away matches without an away win with two triumphs on the road.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.