Once again, feelings were mixed for the Greek supporters in the Champions League this week.
On the one hand, there was the joy of Olympiacos, who doubled their wins against Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir, beating them 2-0 at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.
It was a difficult battle for the club from Piraeus, who once again had goalkeeper Jose Sa in great form, while defender Ruben Semedo and midfielder Mathieu Valbuena were close behind.
The home side came in prepared to end the tie and immediately put the pressure on the visitors, with Brazilian Guillherme sending the ball to bounce off the crossbar with a powerful shot from about 20 metres outside the area.
Eventually though, the Turks found their balance and begun to move upfield, but the Olympiacos defence was more than ready for them.
On the few occasions that were truly threatening, goalkeeper Sa was there to remove all threats to his goal.
The greatest of them came on the 35th minute when Edin Visca made a low cross to the feet of Brazilian star Robinho, who attempted a cheeky touch to put it past the Portuguese keeper, with Sa showing quick reflexes to deny him the goal.
The two teams went into the locker rooms goalless, yet that wouldn’t remain for long.
Just ten minutes into the second half, Valbuena took the free kick with Guerrero getting his head on the ball and sending it to the far post, where despite Carlos Ponck’s best efforts to stop him, Ruben Semedo was there to tap the ball into the empty net.
Things had gone from bad to worse for the visitors and they would get worse still, as a nice one-two between Valbuena and newcomer Radjelovic saw the young Serbian racing towards goal.
He stopped at the right moment, forcing Miguel Vieira to bring him down inside the box and the referee to award the penalty.
The French international was the one to take it, making no mistake and putting his name on the score sheet for the first time ever as an Olympiacos player.
That was to be the final score, as no matter how hard they tried, the Basaksehir players just couldn’t find a way past Sa, who seemed unsurpassed.
The Piraeus club advanced to the playoffs where they will meet Russian side Krasnodar, who shocked FC Porto scoring 3 goals in the first half and walking away with a 2-3 win.
Unfortunately, PAOK will not be joining the red-and-whites, as they fell heroically to a less than compelling Ajax side.
Last season’s semi-finalists were left shocked when the Greek champions took the lead through Diego Biseswar just after 23 minutes and things got even worse for them when Alexandros Paschalakis was able to save a (questionable) penalty by Dusan Tadic.
Yet the British referee Greg Pawson had other plans and awarded the home side yet another penalty kick on the 43rd minute after the ball came into contact with Biseswar hand.
This time, Tadic made no mistake and brought the advantage back to Ajax’s side.
The Dutch were starting to find the gaps in the visitor’s defence and on the 79th minute Nicolas Tagliafico was able to head home after a corner, in a goal that can easily be checked for the shoving of the Argentine on PAOK defender Matos.
As if that wasn’t enough for PAOK, Pawson struck again six minutes later, awarding yet another penalty to Ajax, after a confusion in defence and a push on Tagliafico by Matos.
Tadic was again the one to take the kick, making no mistakes and securing the Dutch giants place in the playoffs.
PAOK were able to renew their hopes late in injury time again by Biseswar, but it was too little too late as there was no time left for them to search for a third.
Not all is lost for the Thessaloniki club though, as they will now move on to the Europa League playoffs where they will face Slovan Bratislava for a position in the group stage.