“Coming here the best decision I ever made” – Portuguese contingent revel in Olympiacos’ historic Europa Conference League win

It was a special night in Athens on Wednesday, as Olympiacos ended their long wait for a European trophy by defeating Fiorentina 1-0 in extra time in the final of the Europa Conference League.

Olympiacos became the first Greek team to win a continental trophy at the OPAP Arena. They did so with five Portuguese players in the matchday squad, and it was a particularly emotional triumph for key men Daniel Podence and David Carmo.

The showpiece occasion looked to be headed to penalties as the encounter entered the final five minutes of extra time. However, Moroccan forward Ayoub El Kaabi – one of the stars of this season’s competition – found space to convert a cross from Santiago Hezze and send the city into raptures.

Olympiacos started the match with three Portuguese in the line-up: defender David Carmo, who was outstanding on the night, former Benfica man Chiquinho and mercurial winger Daniel Podence, who has been in sparkling form this season. Ex-Braga midfielder André Horta replaced Chiquinho in the 77th minute, while João Carvalho endured the frustration of being an unused substitute.

"I came home to where I'm loved" - Podence

"I still haven’t come to my senses,” Podence told Sport TV. “We're only going to come to our senses as time goes on. In 100 years of the club no one has ever managed to do this and maybe nobody will for the next 100 years. Let's go to the stadium and the streets and feel it. A European title is won once in many years, so I don't really know what happened today.

“Holding a Greek flag? "It's a very special relationship. I came here in a difficult situation, then in England I felt that they didn't value me the way I wanted and I returned to a home where they love me a lot. I made a lot of sacrifice to return, they said that it wasn't the right step, it's not a normal step to come from the Premier League to Greece, but I believe in myself and my convictions.

“I fought, I think I did very well and I managed to help the team and these people who love me so much. It has a place in my heart."

Similar emotions for David Carmo, who arrived at the club in January from FC Porto in a surprise deal. The defender was once tipped for a move to one of Europe’s major leagues, but his decision to head to Greece was vindicated with an excellent personal performance, after which Carmo collapsed to the ground in tears.

Best decision of my career - Chiquinho

Olympiacos’ continental success comes at the end of a turbulent season in which they finished 3rd in the Super League and briefly employed Carlos Carvalhal in mid-season. The curious case of Carvalhal in Piraeus, which lasted just two months between December-February, saw six Portuguese players arrive in the winter transfer window.

One of those was Chiquinho, who joined from Benfica for just €1m. Speaking after the victory on Wednesday, the midfielder felt vindicated in his decision. “It’s difficult to put into words what we’re experiencing here today, it’s a unique feeling. We’re very happy. Home advantage helped us keep our personality, we had control and we deserved it.

“Undoubtedly, the move here cost me a bit, but looking back it was the best decision I’ve made in my career. I’m very happy, I’ve always played, and I’ve been loved which gives me confidence. Things have turned out well. I want to continue to be happy here and give joy to the fans.”

Horta off to Algarve

Finally, words from André Horta, who made a positive impact from the bench and has been a regular since joining on loan from Braga in January. “I dedicate it to those who didn't believe in me so much, because that's what made me change and be able to enjoy this victory. Maybe now they believe a little more. I’ve heard about the huge celebrations, now I need to see it with my own eyes. I want a big party!

“We knew it was a very complicated game against an Italian team, which defends man to man and is very strategic. The start of the game was very broken. But I think we gradually managed to create some opportunities. In the end, the victory ends up being fair for us.

“When Artur (referee) blew the whistle, I put my hands to my head. It still hasn’t sunk in with me, but now it's time to celebrate with my teammates. Tomorrow (Thursday) I'm going to travel to Portugal. There’s nothing like our country. Celebrating with my friends and going to the Algarve to eat some Guia chicken.”

By @SeanGillen9