AEK and Olympiakos played out the greatest Greek Cup Final of all time, and arguably the most thrilling match in the vast history of domestic Greek football.
Olympiakos won their fourth league-cup double in the last five seasons after defeating AEK – remarkably, 15-14 on penalties.
With the score locked at 3-3 after regulation time, Olympiakos took a stunning lead when the match resumed for the first half of extra time.
Incredibly, AEK equalised one minute after the second half of extra time commenced, but amid further drama there was no addition to the score until the epic penalty shoot-out.
Olympiakos missed two chances to win it before Antonis Nikopolidis scored the decisive spot-kick giving the reds the victory and the Cup.
Retiring Olympiakos legend Predrag Djordjevic was given the perfect send-off by his team mates, as they eventually secured their club’s 24th Greek Cup title after 120 minutes of play and 29 penalties.
In total, the ball hit the back of the net 37 times as almost three hours was required to separate the two sides.
In Melbourne, the all-night party was at the Charles Dickens tavern where Melbourne’s Original 21 club had organised the match to be shown on several big screens.
Remarkably, AEK fans from all over Australia descended to the subterranean drinking hole, with two fans having travelled from Perth and three from Adelaide in attendance.
And those fans saw AEK get off to a dream start, racing to a two goal lead inside the opening eight minutes of play.
Ismael Blanco, the joint-top scorer of the Super League scored in the fourth minute, as he took advantage of a delicate chip by Rafik Djebbour, heading the ball home to give AEK the lead.
He doubled the advantage when he beat Nikopolidis for a second time, after Pantelis Kafes delivered a lovely ball into the Olympiakos defensive box.
The reds were completely stagnant as Blanco raced in to slot the ball beneath the despairing Nikopolidis.
Olympiakos began to dominate possession but AEK rarely looked troubled.
AEK custodian Sebastian Saja looked particularly solid, as he dealt with everything Olympiakos could throw at him.
The second half was a different affair, and this time, it was the Pireaus side who got the dream start.
Barely two minutes had elapsed when Saja’s goal was breached, by substitute Matt Derbyshire who glanced in a header after a quickly taken corner took AEK by surprise.
AEK’s chances though took a huge blow on 61 minutes with Sotiris Kyrgiakos forced off with injury, appropriately after tussling to win a goal-kick with the lively Derbyshire.
With Olympiakos pressing the AEK defensive line incessantly, it became evident that it was a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Olympiakos would equalise.
That equaliser indeed came, but in somewhat fortuitous circumstances.
The ball was somehow bundled over the line after Saja had punched a cross into a group of players. Brazilian Dudu was eventually credited with the goal on 70 minutes.
As the match opened up in the dying stages, Djordjevic and Derbyshire came close again with the besieged Saja making several incredible saves to keep AEK alive.
AEK barely threatened in the second half but with the scores still tied, the match was up for grabs.
It appeared AEK would take their first trophy in seven years when Ignacio Scocco scored for the ‘Dikefalos Aetos’ in the 90th minute.
The energetic Scocco showed his characteristically nimble feet to dance through three red defenders and into the penalty area, before delaying his finish intelligently and sliding the ball just inside the far post.
In the aftermath, Kyrigiakos was shown the red card after remonstrating with an Olympiakos fan in the VIP section and Derbyshire earned some crucial injury time with some play acting as he lay, apparently injured on the field.
The Englishman, whose arrival had been met with mixed reactions in Greece in January, headed home heroically after a hopeful long ball into the penalty area had been flicked on by Diogo, sending a drama-filled encounter tantalizingly into extra time.
With the score locked at 3-3 the match went into extra time, where Olympiakos drew first blood after 12 minutes of the first 15 minute extra period having elapsed. Luciano Galetti latched onto a Djordjevic through ball, and finished it off perfectly to give Olympiakos their first lead.
Galetti was then remarkably shown a second yellow card, and thus the red, for having removed his shirt during the celebrations. Olympiakos then went down to nine men after Avraam Papadopoulos was sent off for a professional foul on Pantelis Kafes who was bearing down on goal.
As the second half of injury time kicked-off, AEK scored almost immediately though in somewhat fortuitous circumstances. Scocco caught out Nikopolidis with a shot that looked more like a cross gone wrong, after controlling the ball well on the left. The ball hit the back of the net, tying the scores at 4-4.
AEK failed to take full advantage of the final 15 minutes, conceding several cheap free kicks and not committing enough men forward during its frequent thrusts toward goal. Incredibly, despite protests, the referee, who otherwise had a flawless match did not play any additional time.
After an absolutely gut-wrenching penalty shoot-out, which ultimately saw 29 goals and five missed penalties, Olympiakos emerged victorious, with Nikopolidis firing home the deciding spot kick.
Olympiakos 4 (Derbyshire 46’, 90+6’, Dudu 70’, Galletti 102’)
AEK Athens 4 (Blanco 4’, 8’, Scocco 90’, 107’)
Olympiakos win 15-14 on penalties.