AEK won its 15th Greek Cup, on the year of its return to the top flight, upsetting champion Olympiakos 2-1 in front of nearly empty stands at the Olympic Stadium of Athens in Tuesday’s final, in a game that very nearly never was.
After one cancelation and three postponements, the Cup final took place at last, but only in front of a few fans from each team, who were enough to generate some trouble at the VIP stands of the stadium before kick-off.
Having played no competitive games for almost a month, Olympiakos was far from the team that swept the league with a near-perfect record of 28 wins in 30 games. AEK, the only team that had beaten the Reds in the Super League, did it again in the Cup final, but this time only watched by some 400 people, as the federation had decided.
Coached by caretaker Stelios Manolas, AEK played a composed game in defense and was stinging in its breaks, scoring twice from three chances.
A little before the end of a rather sleepy first half, Ronald Vargas lifted the ball for Petros Mantalos who rose and headed the ball off Olympiakos keeper Roberto and into the Reds’ net to make it 1-0 on the 39th minute.
Six minutes into the second half Vargas and Rafik Djebbour broke in the counter attack, with the Venezuelan passing the ball to the Algerian and he made no mistake for 2-0.
Then Pajtim Kasami and Hernani were replaced by Felipe Pardo and Brown Ideye after 2-0, as Olympiakos coach Marco Silva realized his selection errors and tried to breathe new life into his team with 35 minutes remaining.
Olympiakos hit the woodwork 10 minutes from the end as Arthur Masuaku was unlucky in his shot. Five minutes on Chori Dominguez made the most of a lapse in the concentration of the AEK defense to power the ball home and reduce the arrears with a personal effort.
In the last few minutes the game finally lived up to the names of the two teams, with chances on both ends, but the score stayed at 2-1 in AEK’s favor, triggering wild celebrations at the streets of the suburb of Nea Philadelphia.