SPORTS

Triumph for PAOK at Fiorentina, Olympiakos is through

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Soccer

Olympiakos sealed its place in the last 32 of the Europa League and PAOK is close to joining the Reds after scoring an impressive win at Fiorentina on Thursday, while Panathinaikos crashed out as it lost for the fourth time in five games.

PAOK defeated Fiorentina 3-2 in Florence as a spectacular Garry Rodrigues injury-time solo effort capped a great performance for the Thessaloniki club in its first ever victory on Italian soil.

The Greeks led 2-0 via goals by Yevhen Shakhov on the 5th and Djalma Campos on the 26th minute, but the Florence giants equalized 2-2 through goals by Federico Bernardeschi on the 33rd and Khouma Babacar five minutes into the second half.

The Italians put more pressure on the Greeks for a winning goal, but this came at the other end on the third minute of time added-on, as Rodrigues wrong-footed two of its opponents after a great run from the left and as he cut inside he unleashed a great shot for 3-2.

PAOK now needs to better the result that Qarabag has with Fiorentina in Azerbaijan when it hosts Liberec in two weeks’ time.

Olympiakos required just one point to advance to the knock-out stages and got just that on Thursday, drawing 1-1 with Young Boys in Piraeus with a rather lackluster performance.

After a quite boring first half, Costas Fortounis opened the score on the 48th through a direct free-kick. Young Boys responded with a Guillaume Hoarau goal 10 minutes later, but that was not enough for the Swiss.

Both teams missed good chances to win, they both had a goal disallowed as offside, but the result was good enough only for the Greeks. Still, their fans did not forgive their poor performance and booed them of the pitch,m while chanting the name of Chori Dominguez, Olympiakos’s star player who was left out of the squad for one more game by coach Paulo Bento.

The summit of the group will be determined by the APOEL vs Olympiakos game in Nicosia next month, where Olympiakos needs to win to finish first.

Finally Panathinaikos lost 2-0 to a second-string Ajax team in Amsterdam and is certain to finish bottom of its group, having one point from five games.

As usual the Greens had a rather positive start to their game and were denied by the woodwork at Victor’s Ibarbo’s 26th-minute shot, before crumbling for the rest of the match.

Ajax scored the opener five minutes from half-time due to an error of judgment by goalkeeper Luke Steele who let in a Lasse Schone free-kick, and Kenny Tete sealed victory for the Dutch on the 50th after capitalizing on a ball given away by Niklas Hult.

The 3,000 Panathinaikos fans at the stands of Amsterdam ArenA jeered their own players after the final whistle.

The result – the third loss in the last three games in the league and in Europe – is going to increase pressure on Panathinaikos manager Andrea Stramaccioni.

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