- TRI-fylli to the Europa League -
europa league - playoff qualifying round, leg 1
|Panathinaikos||3 - 0||Brondby|
|Berg 45'+2', 82'
Panathinaikos will be making a return to the Europa League Group Stage! The Trifylli will take a comfortable 3 goal lead to Denmark after their 3-0 victory in Athens over Brondby in the first leg of the Playoff Qualifying Round. Berg led the way with a brilliant opener right before the halftime whistle before adding his second (Panathinaikos' 3rd) in the 82nd minute. Ledesma scored his first goal with the club after Brondby were left with NINE men early in the second half.
Brondby were the better side early on and came close to opener at the 5 minute mark, but the crossbar kept Mesto's header from going into his own net. Midway through the first half, Panathinaikos balanced out the game and the turning point came in the 33rd minute, when Brondby's left-back, Crone, was sent off with second yellow card (tackle on Mesto). Despite the man disadvanatge, Brondby created a chance with Pukki in the 39th minute forcing Steele to make a good save. In stoppage time, Panathinaikos' star Marcus Berg opened the score with a brilliant chipped shot to give the home side the 1-0 lead at a critical point in the match. A wrongful offside decision by the referee denied Berg another goal before the break.
The goal gave Panathinaikos confidence in the second half and five minute in, the hosts were awarded a penalty and Brondby was left with NINE men. A fantastic back-heel pass from Berg led to Ibarbo in on goal, before being brought down by the keeper. Ledesma made no mistake from the spot, giving Panathinaikos a 2-0 lead. With the two-man advantage, Panathinaikos wasted numerous chances to put the game (and qualification) away as Brondby's backup goalkeeper came away with great saves. The MVP of the night, Marcus Berg, showed his class once again putting the match to bed with his second goal (assist from Ledesma) in the 83rd minute. A fourth goal did not come in the final minutes for the Trifylli with the match ending 3-0.
With today's result, Panathinaikos can expect their return to the Europa League Group Stage after a shocking elimination to Qabala (from Azerbaijan) in last year's qualifying. The Prasini will travel to Denmark in one week for the second leg.