Panathinaikos got the upper hand in the battle for entry to the Champions League playoffs after snatching a goalless draw at Standard Liege on Wednesday.
If anything, the Greek cup holders missed a great chance to score an away win that would have seen them all but through to the last stage before the Champions League groups.
After an anxious first half where the Belgians were the better team but could not beat the Greek defense, Panathinaikos produced an impressive performance in the second half and deserved to score. It would have done so had it not been for the woodwork and the acrobatics of Standard’s keeper.
The Greens survived a few scares in the first half when the Belgians made some inroads into the visitors’ defense, but without finding the target. Panathinaikos also had two big chances, but Standard’s Japanese keeper Eiji Kawashima denied the Greeks.
In the second half, inspired by Mladen Petric, Panathinaikos missed one goalscoring chance after another, the best one being the header by Gordon Schildenfeld that came off the crossbar on the 67th minute.
Apparently the Greens’ top scorer last season, Sweden’s Marcus Berg did not have his scoring boots on, missing a number of opportunities to hit the net.
The last major chance for a precious away goal came two minutes from time as Belgium-born substitute Viktor Klonaridis could not score from close range.
The return leg is scheduled for Tuesday, August 5 at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens.
For the Europa League on Thursday Asteras Tripolis visits Mainz in Germany and Atromitos travels to Sarajevo.