Olympiacos ease past Aston Villa to set up Conference League final in Athens with Fiorentina

May 10 – Olympiacos overcame favourites Aston Villa in the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-finals, with the stage set for the final in Athens later where they will meet Fiorentina on May 29.

The Greeks cemented their place in the final with a 2-0 victory at home to win the tie 6-2 on aggregate – the damage was done to Villa with 4-2 win at Villa Park last week.

Unai Emery’s Villa side looked tired, with criticism of UEFA growing and calls for them to take pressure off busy schedules as more and more matches are added to the football calendar each year, and with the updated 36-team UCL format looming in the new season.

Olympiacos will hold a slight advantage heading into the match, which will be hosted in their home nation at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens.

Fiorentina, returning to the Conference League final for a second year, maintained a slender lead over Club Brugge to reach the final, progressing 3-4 on aggregate thanks to a late equaliser from Lucas Beltran from the penalty spot.

“We have to accept it,” said Aston Villa manager Unai Emery, who was nominated to the five-man shortlist for Premier League manager of the year this week.

“We have to try and understand, to process how we can improve. Once we are happy, we have to find a way to continue playing our way.

“[Olympiacos] were clinical more than us. We had more chances but we didn’t score. In the second half, we were feeling progressively less confident, and when they scored a second goal we were more or less finished. But congratulations to them.”

Aston Villa now turn their attention to two final Premier League games and qualification for the Champions League, who have a seven-point advantage over Tottenham, who have a game in hand, in fifth.

Having never featured in the modernised UEFA Champions League, a return to Europe’s premier competition after a 42-year wait would make a significant step forward for the club, who have come on leaps and bounds since Emery’s appointment in October 2022.

“We are frustrated a little bit, disappointed a little bit. But only a little bit. We are quick in our mind to focus on the next match,” said Emery.

Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at moc.l1716624533labto1716624533ofdlr1716624533owedi1716624533sni@g1716624533niwe.1716624533yrrah1716624533