It turns out that the Greeks don’t just break plates. West Ham’s unbeaten record in Europe was broken by Olympiakos Piraeus, leaving David Moyes to pick up the pieces of that defeat in Athens.
Their 17-game unbeaten record was added to this city’s long list of ruins by an Olympiacos side fueled by a stadium that offered a triple assault on the senses.
You saw the Ultras jumping at the same time. You have heard her incessant singing. You could smell the smoke as hundreds in the stands sucked on their Marlboros and enjoyed their first Europa League win of the season at the expense of West Ham.
The visitors knew they were in for an intimidating evening. There were enough graffiti drawings of the Grim Reaper outside the Karaiskakis Stadium to warn them. Inside, a tifo the size of a building was unveiled, depicting King Leonidas, portrayed by Gerard Butler in the film 300, pushing an enemy into a bottomless black hole to their death. “Tonight you will dine in hell,” it warned them.
In contrast to the protagonists in this 2007 film, there was little Spartan spirit to be felt from West Ham here. They only gave up when they helped Olympiacos score their two goals and secure the win. Lucas Paqueta’s vicious volley gave them hope of a late equaliser.
It was in the 33rd minute when the football on the pitch finally matched the atmosphere.
Kostas Fortounis was given the freedom of Athens while West Ham’s players did their best impressions of Greek statues and stood still as he spun with the ball.
His method of scoring from 25 yards was unusual – a toe kick – but the power he generated surprised Alphonse Areola. Unlike the West Ham anthem, this time Fortunis didn’t hide as the Olympiacos captain made it 1-0.
In injury time of the first half it was 2-0 thanks to West Ham’s tough defending. Rodinei crossed, and with a name like that one might be tempted to label Angelo Ogbonna a fool for foolishly slamming his attempted free throw into his own goal.
They say you have to beware of Greeks who bring gifts, but it was West Ham who had given Olympiacos two freebies. Moyes’ side had not lost in the European Cup since Eintracht Frankfurt in May 2022, but the coach had only himself to blame for that half-time result, having picked a weakened line-up that was reminiscent of Everton in the Premier League on Sunday and for him was a priority.
Jarrod Bowen, Paqueta and Michail Antonio came on as substitutes in the 58th minute. Edson Alvarez came on in the 72nd minute and the score was 2-1 in the 87th minute when Quini headed clear from Antonio’s cross. Paqueta approached the falling ball and fired a wonderful volley into the goal.
With eight minutes of added time on the clock, West Ham wanted a penalty when Antonio was dragged back into the penalty area. Referee Andris Treimanis said nothing – it took a brave man to award a penalty in stoppage time in this stadium – and VAR Dennis Higler did not intervene.
This ended West Ham’s unbeaten record in Europe. It brought back bad memories for Moyes, who lost here with Manchester United in February 2014, a defeat described as the beginning of the end for him at Old Trafford.
The only bonus is that West Ham, still top of Group A of the Europa League, won’t have to wait long to get their revenge on Olympiacos in the second leg on November 9th.