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ASTON VILLA’S great European adventure was left in ruins here in Athens as England’s last remaining hope finally bowed out.

The Premier League may be the greatest show on earth but there will be no English representation at any of Uefa’s three showpiece finals.

Once again Moroccan hitman Ayoub El Kaabi did the damage with a deadly double, seven days after his hat-trick at Villa Park left Villa with a Mount Olympus sized mountain to scale.

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Even four-times Europa League winner Unai Emery couldn’t prevent this Greek tragedy from playing out.

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Despite enjoying the vast bulk of possession this was one match too many for the Spaniard’s weary squad.

While Olympiakos were given the weekend off, Villa lost at Brighton and looked leggy here.

And so, just a stone’s throw from the ancient ruins of the Acropolis and the Parthenon Villa’s Euro dream turned to rubble.

On Monday night it’s Liverpool when they will hope to summon up the energy to seal fourth place and Champions’ League football.

But they will need to get off their knees to do so after this gut-wrenching disappointment.

All credit to Olympiakos, who have waited 53 years to finally end their fierce city rivals Panathinaikos’ boast of being the only Greek club to reach a major European final.

Ferenc Puskas’s Pana lost 2-0 to Johan Cruyff’s Ajax at Wembley in 1970-71 and Jose Luis Mendilibar’s men were determined to eclipse that – especially with this month’s final taking place in Athens.

Olympiakos’ Under-19’s showed the seniors the way by beating AC to win the UEFA Youth League – the first Greek club side to win any UEFA tournament.

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All the stars now appear to be aligning for the hosts who will face Fiorentina in the final.

Villa had hoped the Greeks two-goal first-leg lead might make them over-cautious – or better still, complacent.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case as Olympiakos, roared on by their frenzied fans, seized control of the tie by grabbing the early goal they craved.

The sight of Emi Martinez taking his usual place between the sticks was a welcome one for the 1,600 travelling army of Villa fans, as was the return of Pau Torres and Diego Carlos in defence.

But there was an early scare for the visitors when the ball glanced off Diego Carlos’s head from an Olympiacos throw and landed at Chiquinho who slashed his shot into the side netting.

Villa responded by pressing Olympiakos back and they forced a hat-trick of corners which all fizzled out.

Then came the moment Emery must have dreaded as Olympiakos picked his side off on the counter-attack – just as they had at Villa Park.

Once again Villa’s high backline imploded as one long ball out of defence picked out Daniel Podence on the left.

His initial cross was blocked by John McGinn but the ball flew back to the former Wolves man who fed overlapping left back Quini.

He drilled in a low cross and Pau Torres failed to cut out the threat.

Unfortunately the ball landed at the feet of the last man Villa wanted it to.

Deadly hitman Ayoub El Kaabi had stunned Villa with a hat-trick in Birmingham and there was no way he was going to miss the open goal gaping in front of him.

He calmly slotted home his 31st goal of the season to break Villa’s hearts again.

Emery’s team now needed three goals just to force extra-time!

Ollie Watkins and Leon Bailey both had shots blocked by a red and white wall of defenders.

Douglas Luiz’s long ranger lacked the power to trouble Kostas Tzolakis in the Greek goal and Bailey headed over at full stretch.

Villa were having plenty of possession – 75 per cent in a dominant first period – but Olympiakos were digging in, encouraged by their fanatical fans and ultras.

Rodinei crashed into Bailey at the edge of the box but Douglas Luiz curled his free kick well over.

Martinez held Fortouni’s 25-yarder before a moment which summed up Villa’s first 45 minutes.

Watkins fed Bailey who played in a tempting low delivery but Matty Cash stumbled in front of a gaping goal.

When your luck’s out, it really is out!

Bailey then crashed in a ferocious effort which Tzolakis pushed over and a frustrating half ended with a booking for Douglas Luiz for hauling down Fortounis.

The locals have a tradition of smashing crockery and Emery must have been tempted to hurl a few tea cups at the break.

His side certainly continued to fight.

Watkins headed over before Emery sent on striker Jhon Duran for Diaby.

The Colombian kid fired in a shot which Tzolakis spilled before Konsa headed over from a Bailey corner.

However Villa’s night of misery was complete when El Kaabi raced clear onto a long clearance from Tzolakis to beat Martinez.

At first glance the Moroccan looked well offside but after a lengthy VAR check the Stadio Karaiskakis erupted as Konsa was judged to have marginally played him onside and the goal was awarded.

In truth Villa simply couldn’t turn silver into gold at the birthplace of the Olympics.

 

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