After a trying qualification process that saw Olympiacos from Piraeus go through three consecutive rounds, the opening day of the UEFA Champions League group stage at the Karaiskaki Stadium was considered by many as something of a pinnacle for the Greek club.
Especially considering that they were up against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, a team from the Premiership that had gone all the way to reach the competition’s final just a few short months ago.
And yet, Olympiacos’ players weren’t going to let themselves be content with a simple appearance in the world’s most prestigious football club competition; they were determined to show to the world that their presence in the Champions League was no mere coincidence.
And, for the most part, they succeeded.
There wasn’t much separating the two teams in the opening minutes of the game.
If anything, it was the Spurs that seemed to be the less threatening of the two sides, as each time Olympiacos broke on the counter, they seemed to create trouble for the English defence.
And they came closest to a goal on the 18th minute when a cross by Kostas Tsimikas from the left found Daniel Podence inside the area, who laid the ball on for Miguel Guerrero with his chest, but the Spaniard’s shot bounced off Hugo Lloris’ post.
And just when the home side were looking like they could make the breakthrough, Harry Kane made his presence felt in Piraeus.
Taking the ball past Yassine Meriah and inside the area, he forced the Tunisian defender to trip him over, with the referee pointing to the spot.
The English striker took the spot kick and with the whole of the Karaiskakis cheering against him him, he calmly put the ball in the heart of Jose Sa’s net.
As if that wasn’t enough, four minutes later the Tottenham midfield managed to stop an Olympiacos counter, with the ball landing on the feet of Lucas Moura who unleashed a volley from outside the area to double the visitor’s lead.
Just as everything seemed to be over between the two teams, with the English side claiming an undeserved advantage, Olympiacos found a lifeline.
After a wonderful combination between Mathieu Valbuena and Daniel Podence, the latter broke into the area and with a low shot put the ball past Lloris to reinvigorate the stadium and renew his teammates’ hopes.
The Tottenham players came out into the second half looking a lot more aggressive to find a third and settle the match, yet the Olympiacos defence proved too difficult to brake down.
The home side were determined to not let this game go and they found the equaliser they were looking for early in the second half.
After a scuffle outside the area of the British team, Belgian defender Jan Verthongen brought down Valbuena who was inside the six-yard-box, with the referee awarding yet another spot kick, this time for the home side.
The Frenchman made no mistake against his former teammate in the national team, bringing the two sides level and setting the Karaiskakis ablaze with jubilation.
The visitors held on to the ball and tried to find the gaps in the Olympiacos defence, with manager Mauricio Pochettino throwing Son, Lamela and Sissoko onto the pitch as a last ditch effort to take the three points.
Yet they just couldn’t find a way through, with Olympiacos always looking as the more dangerous side whenever they broke free on the counter.
35-year-old Valbuena, having given all he had, was eventually substituted for Yassine Benzia (in his first appearance for the Greek club), with the entire stadium giving a standing ovation to the Olympiacos playmaker.
Despite the opportunities created on both ends, neither team was able to break the deadlock, with the referee’s final whistle leaving them both with a sense that they could take something more from the encounter.
But, for Olympiacos to claim such a result against a club worth ten times their own, that can only be considered as a great success.
Round two will see the club from Piraeus take on Red Star in Belgrade, while the Spurs face the difficult challenge of Bayern Munich in London.