Battling Olympiacos go down fighting in Turin
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE - MATCHDAY 2
|Juventus||2 - 0||Olympiacos|
Olympiacos suffered their second successive Champions League defeat on Wednesday, going down 2-0 against Juventus in their Group D match which at least saw recently-appointed coach Takis Lemonis’ team put in a battling display.
Goals from Gonzalo Higuain, who came off the bench to put Massimiliano Allegri’s ahead after 69 minutes, and a fortunate header from Mario Mandzukic late on ultimately sealed the three points for the Italian Serie A giants.
Erythrolefki goalkeeper Silvio Proto also pulled off some fine saves in an entertaining first half but still the scoreline was slightly harsh on an Olympiacos team that showed spirit and organization but just lacked that bit a quality at vital moments which may otherwise have given the home side a real scare.
In the end, however, Juve extended their unbeaten home record in Champions League matches to 20 and got themselves off the mark following the disappointment of their opening 3-0 loss to Barcelona two weeks ago.
Olympiacos now have a mountain to climb as they are now bottom of the section with zero points and five goals conceded after two matches.
Both teams suffered defeats in their opening matches – Juve losing to Barca while Olympiacos were beaten 3-2 at home by Sporting Lisbon – and so went into this match desperate to get off the mark.
Olympiacos also had an extra incentive after losing the Athens derby 3-2 to AEK just three days earlier.
But if anyone expected Juve to rack up a cricket score then they were to be disappointed. Because although the hosts dominated much of the possession in the first half, Lemons sprang a surprise by including three forwards in his line-up in Emmanuel Emenike, Felipe Pardo and Seba. And their pace caused the home side headaches on the counter attack.
Indeed, although the Bianconeri tested the reflexes of Olympiacos custodian Proto on several occasions before half-time with the likes of Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala going close, Olympiacos could also have had a goal had Seba and Emenike kept their heads at crucial moments.
Seba was presented with a great chance after 14 minutes when he cut inside on a quick break, but the Brazilian blazed wastefully over the crossbar. Then Emenike raced clear down the left mid-way through the half but instead of finding Pardo with what should have been a simple pass he found Juve defender Giorgio Chiellini.
The pattern of play continued in the second half with Lemoni’s team retreating slightly further back after Juve sent on star striker Higuain from the bench, but still looking dangerous on the counter attack whenever they broke out.
Vadis Odjidja sent a timely reminder of Olympiacos’ threat after 66 minutes by stinging the palms of Gianluigi Buffon with a daisycutter.
Higuain’s galvanizing presence took full effect just three minutes later though, and Juve were ahead as the visitors’ defence finally caved in.
The Argentine number nine needed two attempts to score after latching on to Alex Sandro’s low cross from the left flank, but after defender Dimitris Nikolaou had blocked his first effort, Higuain tucked away the rebound from six yards out.
It was always going to be difficult from that point for Olympiacos to salvage something, and Mandzukic added a second with 10 minutes left, nodding the ball in after Bjorn Engels cleared Dybala’s shot off the line.
Things don’t get much easier for Lemonis’ team, with a trip to Camp Nou to face group leaders Barcelona next on the agenda.