Morocco’s El Kaabi scores hat-trick as Olympiacos beat Aston Villa

Morocco’s El Kaabi scores hat-trick as Olympiacos beat Aston Villa

England’s only chance of winning a European club trophy this season looks to have taken a huge dent as Moroccan forward Ayoub El Kaabi bagged a hat-trick to help Olympiacos to a 4-2 win over Aston Villa at Villa Park in their Europa Conference League semifinal first leg encounter on Thursday night.

The 30-year-old Moroccan international opened the scoring in the 17th minute after being teed up by Portuguese midfielder Chiquinho.

El Kaabi got his and Olympiacos’ second in the 29th minute, and this time, he was assisted by former Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder Daniel Podence.

Aston Villa pulled one back just before halftime through English forward Ollie Watkins, who got his 27th goal in all competitions this season.

After the restart, the home side drew level in the 52nd minute, as Moussa Diaby, who assisted Watkins, got on the score sheet himself. Diaby found the tiniest of spaces to beat goalkeeper Kostas Tzolakis at his near post.

However, the visitors weren’t going to back down, and they got themselves back in front thanks to El Kaabi, who completed his hat-trick in the 56th minute from the penalty spot. The left-footed forward sent Emiliano Martinez the wrong way for his eighth goal in the competition.

El Kaabi also entered the record books as he became the first ever player in Olympiacos’ long history to score 10+ goals in a major European competition for the Greek side. His eight goals in the Conference League, along with the three he scored earlier in the season in the Europa League, give him all eleven goals.

Olympiacos had their stamp all over the game, and they got their reward eleven minutes later as Argentine-Polish midfielder Santiago Hezze restored their two-goal advantage with the help of a huge deflection.

Villa got a chance to reduce the deficit late in the game after they were awarded a penalty, but Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz sent his effort wide.

The two sides will collide once again for the second leg of the semifinal scheduled for Thursday, May 9, at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, Greece, with the winner set to progress to the final slated for later this month at AEK Athens’ Agia Sophia Stadium.

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