BIRMINGHAM: Ayoub El Kaabi scored a hat-trick as Olympiakos stunned Aston Villa with a 4-2 away win in their Europa Conference League semi-final first leg to give themselves a strong chance of becoming only the second Greek side to compete in a European club competition final.

Olympiakos went 2-0 up inside the opening half hour and although Villa pulled level through Ollie Watkins and Moussa Diaby, the Greek side scored two more goals in the second half to secure a handy advantage ahead of next Thursday’s return leg.

Mbala Nzola netted a stoppage time winner for Fiorentina to beat Belgium’s Club Brugge 3-2 in the other semi-final, first leg clash.

Riccardo Sottil and Andrea Belotti scored for the Italians but a Hans Vanaken penalty and a second half equaliser from Thiago made it 2-2 with Brugge looking to hold on for the draw after Raphael Onyedika was sent off in the 61st minute.

But substitute Nzola cut away a rebound to hand Fiorentina victory.

El Kaabi’s 16th minute left footed effort from close range was initially disallowed for offside but then awarded after a VAR check showed Matty Cash played him on.

The Moroccan international then further silenced Villa Park with an expertly-timed run onto Daniel Podence’s chipped pass to extend the lead in the 29th minute, beating the offside trap again and having time for a couple of touches before tucking the ball away.

Villa pulled one back in stoppage time at the end of the first half as Cash’s surging run down the right found Diaby, who in turn picked out Watkins’ run from deep.

The start of the second half was delayed for a medical emergency in the crowd but seven minutes after the restart Diaby brought the hosts level, netting from a tight angle at the near post after Bailey’s pass put him in on goal.

Parity, however, lasted only four minutes when Douglas Luiz gave away a penalty for handball as a header from Panagiotis Retsos hit him on his outstretched elbow. El Kaabi sent Robin Olsen the wrong way to complete his hat-trick.

Santiago Hezze’s deflected shot in the 67th minute made it 4-2 and Villa’s misery was complete when Douglas Luiz missed his 84th minute penalty.

Olympiakos’ Athens rivals Panathinaikos are the only Greek side to reach a continental club final, beaten 2-0 by Ajax Amsterdam at Wembley in the 1971 European Cup final.

Sottil’s powerful strike had Fiorentina ahead after five minutes at the Stadio Artemio Franchi but the Belgians equalised from a 17th minute penalty from skipper Hans Vanaken after a VAR check for a handball went the way of the visitors.

Fiorentina went back ahead eight minutes before the break through Belotti but Thiago’s surging run made it 2-2 in the 63rd minute, some 120 seconds after Onyedika was dismissed for a second caution.

Nzola’s late winner gives the Serie A outfit the lead for the return leg of their tie, to be held next Wednesday to avoid a clash with the Belgian Cup final on May 9.