Olympiacos conquer Basaksehir in Turkey
SUPER LEAGUE - 3rd QUALIFYING ROUND (1st LEG)
Olympiacos took an important step towards the Champions’ League group stage on Wednesday with a thrilling 1-0 away win over Turkish club Basaksehir in the first leg of their third qualifying round tie.
Giorgos Masouras’ solitary strike early in the second half proved the difference between the two teams in a closely-contested encounter at the Fatih Terim Stadium, giving Pedro Martins’ Thrylos side the upper hand ahead of next week’s second leg at the Georgios Karaiskakis in Athens.
Basaksehir’s hopes of grabbing a late equaliser were not helped by the 80th-minute dismissal of İrfan Kahveci for picking up a second booking, but there was still late drama as Olympiacos goalkeeper Jose Sa, who was in imperious form, saved a 91st-minute penalty from Edin Višća.
This was an important win for Olympiacos in their first ever meeting against Turkish football’s nouveau riche club, and they are now within touching distance of a play-off tie against either Krasnodar or Porto which will decide progression to the lucrative group stage.
Olympiacos came into this match in confident mood having easily dispatched Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen in the second qualifying round last week 4-0 on aggregate.
But a pedestrian first-half in this match saw neither side looking their best. Chances were at a premium as both sides opted to sit back and feel each other out in a very cagey 45 minutes of football.
Thankfully the half-time break seemed to change attitudes a little and there was a bit more attacking intent. Olympiacos began the half brightly showing a willingness to commit players forward, and that philosophy brought the opening goal just eight minutes after the restart.
Masouras was the man on target, scoring with a well-placed header after an intelligent right-wing cross from the ever-dependable veteran Frenchman Mathieu Valbuena.
It was a breakthrough which breathed confidence into the visiting players and they began to threaten more, with Portuguese winger Daniel Podence looking particularly dangerous with his tricky and direct runs.
The hosts did recover from the setback of falling behind and play their way back into contention, but when presented with a good chance to score on the 70th minute mark, Norwegian striker Fredrik Gulbrandsen fired straight at Sa in the Oympiacos goal.
Basaksehir continued to apply pressure on the visitors’ goal and moments later Višća turned superbly and sent a low shot goalwards, only for Sa to pull off a fine save diving to his left to keep it out and preserve Olympiacos’ lead.
İrfan Kahveci’s dismissal made things harder for Basaksehir, but Sa was called into action again to deny Júnior Caiçara two minutes from time as the ragged-looking visitors looked to hold on to their slender lead.
There was still time for the home side to get something out of the game, and they were awarded a penalty in the first minute of added time when Bruno Felipe was penalised for a handball. But, Sa once again came to the rescue, swatting away Visca’s spot-kick to ensure the scoreline remained unchanged and the visitors claimed a vital victory.
Basaksehir: 34 Mert Günok (GK), 3 Clichy, 7 Višća, 9 Gulbrandsen, 17 İrfan Kahveci, 21 Mahmut Tekdemir ©, 22 Chedjou, 24 Vieira, 27 Crivelli, 70 Robinho, 80 Júnior Caiçara
Olympiacos: 1 José Sá (GK), 3 Ruben Semedo, 5 Bouchalakis, 8 Guilherme,9 Guerrero, 10 Daniel Podence, 14 Elabdellaoui ©, 19 Masouras, 20 Meriah, 21 Tsimikas, 28 Valbuena
HIGHLIGHTS: BASAKSEHIR - OLYMPIACOS