Olympiacos’ Champions League hopes on track after narrow win over Rijeka
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE - PLAYOFFS (LEG 1)
|Olympiacos||2 - 1||Rijeka|
Olympiacos’ bid to reach the Champions League group stage is delicately balanced after the Greek champions came from behind to clinch a late 2-1 home win at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium on Tuesday by Croatian side Rijeka.
Olympiacos fell behind to a stunning strike from Rijeka’s Brazilian forward Heber just three minutes before half-time which left the home crowd stunned into silence heading into the break.
The hosts managed to regroup in some style, however, pulling level thanks to an emphatic finish from Vadis Odjidja six minutes after the hour mark, before Alaixsys Romao’s added time strike capped a fine fightback.
Besnik Hasi will not be happy with his team’s performance after a host of missed first chances deprived Olympiacos of perhaps putting this tie out of sight on the night.
The result means Hasi and his players do hold a slender advantage ahead of the second leg in Croatia on August 22, but their task to claim a place in the lucrative group stages remains a tricky one due to Rijeka’s away goal.
This is Rijeka's first Champions League campaign since 1999/2000, and they looked out of their depth slightly in a first half dominated by Olympiacos, who looked eager to please and hungry for goals.
Their enthusiasm and impressive build-up play was not matched by composure in front of goal however, with Ben Nabouhane and Marko Marin – among others – guilty of missing clear scoring chances.
Marin was first to pass up a golden opportunity after 32 minutes when he found himself free in the right inside the penalty area before firing a shot rashly straight at Simon Sluga in the Rijeka goal.
Eight minutes later and it was Ben Nabouhane’s turn to fluff his lines, the striker heading over from close range after a delightful cross from Odjidja.
Then came the sucker punch from the visitors. It was Heber who mad the hosts pay for their profligacy, producing a delightful flick to create space on the edge of the penalty area before rifling a shot past Stefanos Kapino.
The arrival of fans’ favourite Fortounis off the bench spurred the home side into life in the second half, however. After 66 minutes the Greece international raced down the right before squaring a neat ball to Odjidja, who smashed the ball home first time into the roof of the net.
Olympiacos’ hopes of grabbing a late winner were boosted by the 83rd-minute dismissal of Rijeka left-back Leonard Zuta for picking up a second yellow card, and the visiting defence finally caved in three minutes into added time.
The ball ricocheted around the Rijeka penalty area in a goalmouth scramble following an Olympiacos attack and Romao was on hand to hook in from close range and send the home fans into raptures.