A wonderful night, a magical year, and a script for a short film. Panathinaikos showed how to restore a “burned” and desolate landscape into something that not only bloomed but also reached its first peak in years.

Panathinaikos’ years of patience have come to an end. They were in agony, they cried, suffered, and were ridiculed, they went through the darkest times of its history, but they have returned!

Panathinaikos beat PAOK 1-0 to clinch the Greek Cup, making it the club’s 19th title of the competition, having won it last time in the 2013-14 campaign. Panathinaikos dominated the first half but failed to put the ball back in the net and missed easy chances. It was until after an interesting build-up for Panathinaikos that led to a penalty being awarded to Panathinaikos when PAOK’s Portuguese defender and captain Vieirinha kicked Serb midfielder Mijat Gacinovic in the face.

The Spanish superstar Cantalapiedra, who plays as a winger for Panathinaikos, scored the penalty in the 34th minute and opened the scoring tally for the Panathinaikos in the Greek Cup finals, reports Pao FC News.

Cantalapiedra opted to celebrate in front of PAOK fans after converting the penalty in the 35th minute following a VAR check and was hit in the hand by a projectile. It was a piece of cement, according to Panathinaikos News.

The final was immediately delayed by Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz, who restarted it 35 minutes later.

As the exciting 45 minutes of the first half came to an end, it was the turn of PAOK fans to overflow onto the track in an attempt to reach the opposing fans, battling with the police in the process and further delaying the start of the second half.

Panathinaikos, who dominated the first half, held on to its lead in the second half despite PAOK’s best efforts. The final lasted more than three hours longer than expected, as Panathinaikos won their 19th Greek Cup championship, and first since 2014, reports Pao FC News.

“The title-winning goal meant that Panathinaikos will be playing in a European competition after 5 years of wait, starting in the third qualifying round of UEFA Conference League, while PAOK will enter the second qualifying round,” as per Panathinaikos News.

A chance to qualify for the UEFA Conference League means that Greece’s mightiest club will be competing at the biggest stage in Europe once again. Panathinaikos are no strangers to competing at the biggest stages in the football world as in terms of European tournaments, Panathinaikos is also the most successful Greek club.

European Heritage

Panathinaikos is the only Greek team to have reached the final of the European Cup (later renamed UEFA Champions League) in 1971 (which they lost 2–0 to Ajax Amsterdam), as well as the semi-finals in 1985 and 1996. It’s also the only Greek football club to have ever competed in the Intercontinental Cup (1971). They’ve also advanced to the quarter-finals of the Champions League two more times (in 1992 and 2002), as well as the UEFA Cup quarter-finals thrice (1988 and 2003). In 1977, they also won the Balkans Cup.

Rebuilding The Squad

Dani Poyatos, a Spaniard, was appointed as the club’s new coach on July 22, 2020, for a two- year term, succeeding George Donis. Poyatos was fired on October 12 following a terrible start to the season and was replaced by László Bölöni, as reported by Pao FC News.

Bölöni was fired and replaced by Ivan Jovanovic after the team finished fifth in the league and failed to qualify for European competition.

Road To UEFA Conference League

Pao FC News further reported that the team fulfilled its major goal of returning to European competitions in the 21-22 season, coming fourth, and winning their 19th Greek Cup, defeating PAOK 1-0 in the final, ending an eight-year trophy drought.

Ivan Jovanovic was presented with a two-year contract extension, which he accepted as per PanathinaikosNews. Jovanovic will be leading the Panathinaikos squad in the hopes of winning the UEFA Conference League next season.

As per reports from Pao FC News, UEFA conducted the first inspection on the Avenue in preparation for Panathinaikos’ European participation. UEFA has made demands regarding lighting upgrades and a variety of projects that are viable.

Panathinaikos News reported that the members of the committee of the European Football Association would be making an inspection of the stadium before the Panathinaikos games in the 3rd qualifying round on August 4 and 11 to give the “green light” for the group stage matches and qualifying stages.