On Sunday, Olympiacos winger Lazaros Christodoulopoulos made his long-awaited return to the Olympic Stadium to face former club AEK, but it didn’t go to plan.
In a simply stunning 2017/2018 campaign, Christodoulopoulos shone for AEK, stealing the headlines with wonderful displays to inspire the Athenians to a first Greek championship in 24 years. It seemed a match made in heaven, but in a hugely controversial move, the 31-year old opted to leave AEK and join Olympiacos with the former citing foul play. Taking into account the dramatic storyline, everyone was waiting for Christodoulopoulos to play ex-employers AEK in an Olympiacos shirt, however the talented winger fell flat on his face.
As promised, Olympiacos boss Pedro Martins included Christodoulopoulos in the starting line-up at the OAKA, giving him the chance to show AEK what they’re missing. Looking back with hindsight, it’s a decision which certainly wasn’t a wise one. With the AEK fans passionately booing Christodoulopoulos every time he touched the ball, the player completely froze, unable to trouble the opposing defence. The Kitrinomavri supporters continued to sing abusive songs in his address and Christodoulopoulos was witnessed giving them an ironic thumbs-up when substituted on 73 minutes.
Yes, he’s a professional footballer with plenty of experience at the top level, but the occasion affected him terribly. Before the match, Martins stated that he hoped Christodoulopoulos could cope with the OAKA atmosphere, however he was emphatically proved wrong. Throughout his time on the pitch, Christodoulopoulos failed to generate any attacking traction, seemingly lacking the confidence to take players on and beat them for speed. Remember when he scored a world class free kick against Olympiacos for AEK last year? Early in the second half, he had an opportunity to replicate that goal, but his weak effort was comfortably blocked by the wall. A moment which summed up his night perfectly.
After 73 minutes of play, Martins eventually realised that Christodoulopoulos wasn’t going to improve, hauling him off in favour of Giannis Fetfatzidis. Christodoulopoulos now has a timely international break to recuperate with the Greek national team and re-discover his form which was there for all to see at the start of the season.