10-man Greece held by Croatia in Under-21 clash
EURO U21 QUALIFICATION
|Greece U21||1 - 1||Croatia U21|
|Manthatis 65'||Brekalo 74'|
Greece’s Under-21 side were held to a 1-1 draw by Croatia on Monday in an absorbing European Championship qualifying Group 1 clash at the Toumba stadium in Thessaloniki.
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Just 24 hours after the senior side were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by Croatia in the World Cup playoffs following a 0-0 draw in the second leg in Athens, Antonis Nikopolidis’ young side almost gave Greek fans a perfect response in this top of the table clash.
Giorgos Manthatis deservedly put the impressive and attack-minded Greeks ahead from close range in the 65th minute, but they were pegged back in unfortunate circumstances when substitute goalkeeper Eleftherios Astras fumbled in Josip Brekalo’s long range effort just moments after replacing the injured Konstantinos Kotsaris.
The result means both teams are level on 13 points after five matches played, with Croatia in top spot ahead of Greece on goals scored.
Brekalo’s fortunate goal made amends for a penalty miss by the same player three minutes before half-time, while Greece ended the match with 10 players after Triantafyllos Pasalidis was sent off for picking up a second booking seven minutes from full-time.
Both teams went into the match with a 100 percent record having won all four of their previous matches. An energetic and creative Greek side threatened throughout, mainly down the flanks through Manthatis and Lazaros Lamprou, the latter hitting the post after 33 minutes following a lightning fast break.
It was Croatia who had the best chance of the opening half to score, however, when they were awarded a penalty after Triantafyllos Pasalidis (Greece) brought down Brekalo.
The latter stepped up to take the spot-kick himself, only to side-foot the ball well wide of Konstantinos Kotsaris’ left post, much to the relief of the Greek players.
Five minutes into the second half Lamprou wasted a glorious chance to score, blazing over after being teed up by Manthatis.
But Greece were soon ahead, when Konstantinos Galanopoulos’ superb run and cross from the left was converted by Manthatis with a side-footed finish from six yards out.
The lead lasted just nine minutes, though, as Astras, who had came on just three minutes earlier, let Brekalo’s hopeful shot from the edge of the penalty area slip through his grasp and into the net behind him in the 74th minute.