Fiorentina were left heartbroken in the Europa Conference League final again as a late Ayoub El Kaabi goal in extra-time sealed a 1-0 win for Olympiacos at the Agia Sophia Stadium in Athens.

Vincenzo Italiano‘s side were beaten in 90 minutes by a late West Ham goal in the 2022/23 Conference League final and this time the killer blow came in the 115th after a tight and tense affair that lacked real quality in attack.

Both sides looked susceptible to a late goal and it was La Viola who fell victim, with El Kaabi becoming Olympiacos‘ hero once again in the home stadium of Greek Super League rivals AEK Athens. They become the first Greek side to win a European club trophy.

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Fiorentina’s Nikola Milenkovic against Olympiacos. [Getty]

Fiorentina lack the cutting edge despite possession

Fiorentina had the ball in the net first in Athens, with Nikola Milenkovic turning in a cross at the near post after 10 minutes. The flag quickly went up and a quick VAR check showed that the Serbian was offside.

There was also a good opportunity for a shot on goal for Giacomo Bonaventura after 20 minutes but the Italian failed to get hold of the shot before sinking to his knees. La Viola were certainly on top, though, with the likes of Andrea Belotti and Nico Gonzalez getting some joy in and around the box.

It was very clear from the early stages that neither side was holding back in the tackle, and the referee had no choice but to turn to the cards before the half-hour mark as Dodo was wiped out by Daniel Podence.

Fiorentina looked the far more likely to carve out a clear chance as the half wore on but the odd misplaced pass was letting them down. There was then a reminder of how quickly Olympiacos can strike, as some very brave goalkeeping from Pietro Terracciano was needed to halt Ayoub El Kaabi in the box. In their two legs against Aston Villa, the Greek side had 30% and 38% possession, but scored six goals.

A cagey second half in Athens leads to extra-time

The second half continued in the same vein as the first, with both sides showing good intensity but also clearly very concerned about the prospect of falling behind.

Perhaps the clearest chance came with just over 20 minutes to go as a smart move involving M’Bala Nzola and Dodo led to Kouame attempting a shot in the box that he got so wrong it almost caught Konstantinos Tzolakis out.

Fiorentina fans must have felt the writing was on the wall when Stevan Jovetic was introduced off the bench. The Montenegran played 135 games and scored 40 goals for La Viola, and he still has a house in Florence.

Andre Horta was also introduced for more creativity and a free-kick from the Portuguese midfielder was met by Vicente Iborra whose header only narrowly missed the far post, with Terracciano rooted.

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Fiorentina’s Nico Gonzalez against Olympiacos. [Getty]

The two sides simply cancelled one another out for 90 minutes and the contest tipped into extra-time. Jovetic of all people forced a good save out of Terracciano early in the first half and Olympiacos appeared to have more energy than Fiorentina.

Fiorentina built up a head of steam in the second half and Jonathan Ikone had a shot on goal that forced a save, but the match seemed destined for penalties. That was until the momentum swung back the way of Olympiacos and El Kaabi headed in his 33rd goal of the season with five minutes to play.

There was a frankly ridiculously long VAR check after the goal, but it was eventually given and local fans were able to erupt in celebration. Fiorentina were now staring down the barrel of a second consecutive late Europa Conference League final defeat.

There was a great chance for Ikone which was superbly blocked, but it was too little too late for Fiorentina who must rally and go again in the same tournament next season, with or without Vincenzo Italiano. The result also means Torino will not get European football next season.