By George Georgakopoulos
Olympiakos scored three goals, earned three penalties (but scored from just one) and ended the game with three men’s advantage to beat Anderlecht 3-1 on Tuesday night in Piraeus and advance to the last 16 of the Champions League. Two goals by Javier Saviola and a Chori Dominguez spot kick sent the Greek champion to the next round.
The Reds finished second to Paris Saint Germain in their group, with 10 points from six games and will be among the unseeded teams in the draw for the next round. That means Olympiakos will host the first match and play away from home in the return, against one of the other groups’ winners (not Paris SG).
The importance of the occasion rendered the Olympiakos players nervous and their first half performance was not what coach Michel would have wanted from the team, even with Costas Mitroglou and Yiannis Maniatis absent.
It took the host just over half an hour to put the ball into the net against the group’s weakest team. A move by David Fuster led to Saviola landing the ball at the edge of the box on the left and he drilled a left-foot shot past Anderlecht keeper Silvio Proto for 1-0 in the 33rd minute.
Then suddenly Amrcian star Sacha Kljestan equalized for Anderlecht with a clever flick from close range six minutes later, as the Olympiakos defense was caught red-handed after a corner at the other end.
After the interval the game was very different. Five minutes into the second half Cheikhou Kouyate handled the ball in the box at a Saviola shot to concede a penalty and get his second booking, leaving Anderlecht with 10 men. Saviola, however, could not beat Proto, who dived to his left and saved the spot kick.
Yet in the 58th minute a solo effort by Jose Holebas from the left ended with Fuster volleying a shot from outside the box and Saviola getting in the way to trick the Belgian keeper for 2-1.
Vladimir Weiss missed Olympiakos’s second penalty in the 71st minute as he was also beaten by the Anderlecht goallie.
Fabrice N’Sakala became the second Anderlecht player to get his marching orders five minutes from time, also for a second bookable offense.
Eventually Proto became the third Anderlecht player to get sent off, this time with a straight red, for upending Weiss in injury time, and Dominguez scored from the spot for the final 3-1.