Valencia CF responded to their coach's request that they win Group D with a 2-0 victory which, together with FC Shakhtar Donetsk's success against AS Roma, means Quique Sánchez Flores's side cannot now be overtaken in the section.
Super strikes from Miguel Ángel Angulo and Fernando Morientes - whose header made him the tournament's joint-top scorer with five goals - secured the points. But the cost was an injury to the club's leading marksman David Villa: given Valencia's injury crisis, it was a serious blow ahead of their Primera División date with Real Madrid CF this weekend.
Although Olympiacos applied precisely the conservative tactics that Sánchez Flores predicted they would, it took only moments for former FC Barcelona star Rivaldo to reintroduce himself to the Mestalla. Barely four minutes in, Predrag Djordjević was allowed to drift through midfield and slip a cute pass into the Brazilian. Two touches later the ball was hurtling towards Santiago Cañizares's top left-hand corner but the goalkeeper excelled with a flying save.
With each team probing for control, small details began to assume major importance. Valencia's 20-year-old midfielder Miguel Pallardó was struggling to adjust to the pace of the UEFA Champions League and his difficulties were underlined when he committed his fourth foul of the night 22 minutes in. The problem for Villa was more acute: Valencia's star striker started holding the back of his right leg and, soon after, limped out of the action to compound the worries for a club with ten major injuries already.
Olympiacos were also hamstrung by an injury, with Miloš Marić having to replace forward Michalis Konstantinou. The substitute's first contribution for the Greek champions was to deliver a lovely free-kick which Cañizares saved brilliantly. However, the breakthrough when it did arrive came at the other end – courtesy of the increasing impact of three old heads in the Spanish side.
Three wise men
Rubén Baraja, back after a three-month lay-off, began to run the midfield; Morientes deputised for Villa with purpose and power; and Angulo, playing as an auxiliary striker, provided the necessary goal threat. His bullish diving header close to the half-hour brought a diving stop from Antonios Nikopolidis on the goalline. The Greek international keeper could do little, however, when Angulo played a one-two with Cristobal Curro Torres before cutting into the box and curling home a right-footed drive.
Valencia's determination to meet their coach's demand by winning the group was further rewarded within seconds of the restart. Before the visitors had settled, David Silva delivered an outswinging cross from the left which Morientes headed in for his 32nd UEFA Champions League goal. It could have been three for the evening in the 50th minute, as Joaquín Sánchez jinked past two defenders and chipped the keeper only for the covering Michał Żewłakow to thump the ball off his line. It was then Nikopolidis to the rescue after Silva followed his assist with another surge into the penalty area and shot, which the custodian blocked.
Valencia almost signed off in style with a direct free-kick from almost 40 metres which Joaquín sent screaming, from a position right on the touchline, against the junction of post and crossbar. It mattered little to the final outcome, which for Olympiacos, cut adrift at the bottom of the section, meant the end of their UEFA Champions League dream for another season.