Greens Win Again to Stay in Playoff Race
GREEK superleague playoffs - MATCHDAY 5
|Panathinaikos||1 - 0||Panionios|
Panathinaikos showed once again they intend to fight for their European place to the death after securing a second successive 1-0 win on Sunday, this time over Panionios, to move temporarily into joint-first place with PAOK.
Marinos Ouzounidis’ under-strength Greens side, who were without talisman Marcus Berg and several other first team regulars, went ahead through Robin Lod’s 17th-minute strike, and it proved enough to seal another three vital points.
The win temporarily moved Panathinaikos level with first place PAOK with both side’s having collected eight points, although Vladan Ivic’s Salonica team were due to face AEK at the Olympic Stadium later.
Despite their lofty position which puts them in contention for the Champions League place which awaits the playoff winners, that is likely to change if - as expected - the Tryfili are deducted three points in their disciplinary case concerning the abandoned playoff Matchday 2 against PAOK when the Salonica club’s coach was hit with a beer can thrown by a home fan.
While that may be casting a dark cloud over the club, Panathinaikos’ players certainly didn't show it at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium on Sunday, controlling the match from start to finish to chalk up a 14-match unbeaten run of league games.
Fans’ favourite Sebastian Leto was at his imperious best, setting up Lod for the goal and causing Panionios problems throughout the match, while captain Zeca and central defender Giorgos Koutroubis also putting in stellar displays.
Panionios looked a shadow of the team that lit up the SuperLeague and threatened at one stage to wrestle the title away from Olympiacos for the first time in the Nea Smyrni club’s history, failing to trouble home goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos.
The home side survived a couple of speculative shouts for handball in the closing stages from the visitors to hang on for victory, which puts them in a great position to claim third place - if their punishment is confirmed - and avoid having to start in the earlier qualifying stages of the Europa League.