By George Georgakopoulos
A freak own goal by Martin Skrtel at the end of the first half was enough for Greece to defeat Slovakia 1-0 on Friday and retain some mathematical hope of qualifying directly to the World Cup, should Bosnia slip up at Lithuania on Tuesday.
The rather dull encounter at the Karaiskakis stadium of Piraeus produced little excitement for the 20,000 Greece faithful, but it will definitely be remembered for the highly unusual own goal on the 44th minute that should make the end-of-year funny highlights on TV channels.
In what was a quite easy moment for the Slovak defense, Skrtel attempted a back pass to his goalkeeper, Jan Mucha, who tried to kicked the ball to safety but allowed it to roll under his foot and into the net. The Greek players watched in disbelief and it took them a couple of seconds before they realized they could celebrate the goal they were unable to produce by themselves on the night.
Greece had two other chances to score, a header by Costas Manolas in the first half and a lob by Costas Mitroglou in the second, but was quite poor in producing the attacking game one would have expected from the home team that needed all three points from the game.
In the last 10 minutes of the game Slovakia posed some threat to the Orestis Karnezis goal, but without really making an impact.
The other notable feature of the game was the 128th cap for Giorgos Karagounis, introduced in the 76th minute as a substitute, to stretch his record with the Greece jersey further.
Greece remains level on points at the top of the group with Bosnia Herzegovina, which thrashed Liechtenstein 4-1 at home. The Bosnians have the edge, though, thanks to their superior goal difference, which means that if they beat Lithuania on Tuesday they will win the group regardless of Greece’s result with Liechtenstein.