Olympiacos 2-0 Omonoia: Valbuena and El-Arabi give hosts control

Mathieu Valbuena's penalty and a sensational Youssef El-Arabi strike gave the Greek champions victory.

Mathieu Valbuena made the breakthrough for the hosts
Mathieu Valbuena made the breakthrough for the hosts AFP via Getty Images

Olympiacos took control in the UEFA Champions League play-offs after seeing off a determined defensive display by their visitors.

Olympiacos vs Omonoia: as it happened, reaction

Match in brief

The Greek champions dominated the first half, although Omonoia's resolute defending largely frustrated their attacks. Mohamed Camara stung Fabiano's fingers with a powerful long-range effort and Ahmed Hassan sent a header on to the roof of the net from Mathieu Valbuena's cross before Kostas Fortounis volleyed over the crossbar when well-placed.

Omonoia's resolve was eventually broken well into the second period. Jan Lecjaks conceded a penalty following a foot race with Lazar Ranđelović, inviting Valbuena to convert precisely from the spot. El-Arabi then added a sensational last-gasp second, turning skilfully to create space before firing a low, long-range shot into the corner of the net.

Vassiliki Papantonopoulou, Olympiacos reporter

Olympiacos were made to work hard to break the deadlock against stubborn Omonoia. The Piraeus outfit were dominant throughout the encounter but rather profligate in the first half. They were more dangerous after the hour mark, when coach Pedro Martins introduced Randjelović and El-Arabi. The former earned the penalty that Valbuena dispatched. With more match rhythm and competitive games, Martins' men may have been more clinical. This was just their third outing of the season, so expect them to be improved in a week's time in Nicosia.

Youssef El-Arabi grabbed the second goal in added time
Youssef El-Arabi grabbed the second goal in added timeAFP via Getty Images

John Leonidou, Omonoia reporter

You could argue that Henning Berg got his game plan right until the penalty and El-Arabi's late, late strike. The Cypriot visitors arrived in Piraeus to hold off Olympiacos and they did a decent job up until the opener. Omonoia have it all to do in Nicosia next week. They will need to do what no other Cypriot team has achieved and overturn a two-goal aggregate deficit in the play-offs.

Reaction

Pedro Martins, Olympiacos coach: "It was very important that we improved a lot in the second half we had better rhythm. We should have played like that in the first half but we are happy with the fact we didn’t face any real danger in defence. Their best player was their keeper, who made at least two top saves. We displayed strength of character and determination to win."

Mathieu Valbuena, Olympiacos winger: "It was very important to get the win in a match where we didn't play very well. It's been a very complicated start to the season and we are still in preparation mode. We will still be very focused for the second leg but it was important to score that second goal so that we can approach the match in Cyprus more calmly and confidently."

Henning Berg, Omonoia coach: "We battled well and were still in the contest for a good amount of time. We were unlucky in conceding the penalty and then that late goal. We defended well against a side much better than us. We will give our all at home and do what we can to go through. We need to be a little better in our attacking game and have better accuracy and timing. If we can do that, we can score."

Jordi Gómez, Omonoia captain: "We did a good job and we're disappointed to concede from a penalty and then a last-minute second goal. Overall they were better than us and we have to accept that. We had some chances but we couldn't score. We will need to have the perfect game [in Nicosia]. The current score is difficult but we will do whatever we can."

Key stats

• The Greek club won for only the second time in their last six home matches in UEFA competition (D2 L2).

• Olympiacos are unbeaten in 17 European qualifying fixtures (W14 D3) since a 1-0 loss at Hapoel Beer-Sheva in the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.

• Olympiacos have recorded two wins and a defeat in their ties against Cypriot clubs since their 1965 contests against these opponents.

Omonoia had drawn both of their previous UEFA Champions League qualifying matches so far this season, prevailing after extra time twice.

The Cypriot champions lost for just the second time in their last 13 European games (W7 D4).

Lineups

Olympiacos: José Sá; Rafinha, Semedo, Ba, Holebas; Bouchalakis, Camara; Valbuena, Fortounis (El-Arabi 59), Masoura (Randjelović 59); Ahmed Hassan (M'Vila 76)

Omonoia: Fabiano; Hubočan, Lüftner, Lang, Lecjaks; Bautheac (Loizou 87), Jordi Gómez, Vítor Gomes; Papoulis (Asante 81), Sene (Ďuriš 46), Thiago

What's next?

The second leg takes place in Nicosia on Tuesday 29 September. The winner enters the draw for the UEFA Champions League group stage, to be made in Nyon on 1 October.