Home Match Day Heartbreak as Villa crash out of Europe to Olympiakos in the Semi-Finals

Heartbreak as Villa crash out of Europe to Olympiakos in the Semi-Finals

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John McGinn of Aston Villa applauds the fans at full-time following the team's defeat in the UEFA Europa Conference League 2023/24 Semi-Final second leg match between Olympiacos FC and Aston Villa at Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis

Some will call it a lack of experience, some will blame it on our injuries and others will say we weren’t good enough. Regardless of the reasons, Villa were knocked out of Europe in the Semi-Final because they were second-best over two legs.

Olympiakos got it spot on at Villa Park and in Greece last night whereas Villa were defensively poor in the first leg and created very little in the second.

It’s a strange feeling to feel proud yet disappointed. I won’t lie, I wanted to win a trophy this season and felt this was our best opportunity. I wasn’t like others who thought it was a certainty, I always felt that we could struggle unless we had our strongest XI available but this season has been one hell of a ride and I have enjoyed it so far. I hope we can find a way in the league to get over the line and qualify for the Champions League.

Report: Olympiakos 2 (6) Aston Villa 0 (2)

Unai Emery made two changes from the side that lost to Brighton at the weekend as Emiliano Martínez returned as Robin Olsen dropped to the bench. Matty Cash also started due to Morgan Rogers being injured. There was still no sign of the injured Youri Tielemans.

I had very little hope walking out of Villa Park last Thursday but a week is a long time and I approached this game believing but always worried that we would concede.

Despite a positive start from Villa, my worries came true within 10 minutes when Ayoub El Kaabi extended the host’s lead against the run of play. Daniel Podence exploited Villa’s highline on the counter-attack allowing El Kaabi to tap in and score his fourth goal over the legs.

Olympiakos sat deeper knowing all they had to do was defend their lead and despite Villa continuing to dominate, chances were few and far between.

The efforts worth mentioning in the opening 45 minutes came from Moussa Diaby but Konstantinos Tzolakis raced from his line to deny the Frenchman. In added time Leon Bailey forced another save from the Greek keeper be he turned his effort wide of the post.

Villa started to lose hope as the clock ticked down and the home side doubled their lead with 12 minutes left on the clock as Villa’s highline was exploited yet again. Once again it came through El Kaabi as he beat the offside trap to book their place in the Final.

Ollie Watkins came close to pulling a goal back late on but Tzolakis turned the looping header over the bar to end Villa’s European dream for this season.

What the manager said

Emery: “Congratulations to our supporters. They were always supporting us and came here well. We got to be in Europe and this year we were enjoying it with them.

“But to win is very difficult. We arrived in the semi-final but we have to accept because they deserve to play the final.

“We lost in the first 90 minutes at home – we lost control of our emotions a little. Today, we started well, even if they scored a goal – we were, more or less, controlling the game.

“We weren’t clinical and the time was fighting with us. We lost today but we are in a process. It’s an experience for us after a long time.

“We are going to repeat in Europe next year and we have the challenge to end the season with Champions League. Today, we are a little bit disappointed, a little bit frustrated, but you have to move on quickly.”

Up Next

Aston Villa will host Liverpool on Monday night in the final game of the Premier League season at Villa Park. A win will guarantee Villa play Champions League football next season.

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