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Metalist shocks Olympiakos in the end

By George Georgakopoulos

Olympiakos threw away a two-goal aggregate lead to lose 2-1 on the night to Metalist Kharkiv and suffer a shock exit from the Europa League on Thursday.

The Reds thought they had made it to the last eight of Europe’s second-tier competition after leading 1-0 at half-time, but a couple of injuries and a miserably poor performance in the second half allowed the Ukrainian side to score twice in the last 10 minutes and claim an unlikely spot in the quarterfinals of the tournament for the first time in its history.

Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, Olympiakos had everything its favour. It led 1-0 from the first leg at Kharkiv and entered the game with great style as it completely dominated the game in the first 25 games.

It was not long before the Greeks got the lead on the night, through Ivan Marcano at the 15th minute, and went on to hit the woodwork twice in the course of the first 45 minutes.

The first bad omen came one minute before half-time, when its midfield maestro, Ariel Ibagaza, suffered an injury and came off.

The second half was an entirely different game, as the competition’s best attack – Metalist had scored 27 goals before this match in the Europa League – started asking questions at the Olympiakos defense. The injury to Olympiakos's defensive midfielder Yiannis Maniatis did not help.

After missing a couple of decent chances and seeing one of its efforts come off the post in the 71st minute, Metalist earned a penalty due to a handball by Francois Modesto in the box. Yet Marko Devych’s shot was far too weak to beat Olympiakos keeper Balazs Megyeri, who saved the kick with ease in the 78th minute.

But just as it had seemed the threat had passed for the Reds and the dream of entering the quarterfinals came ever closer, nightmare followed instead.

Megyeri failed to clear a cross from the left, allowing Cristian Villagra to get to the ball first and then slot it in for 1-1 with nine minutes left to play.

This was the first goal Olympiakos had conceded after 10 games, but made sure it would concede another after just five minutes.

Metalist threw everything at the Reds’ goal and Devych eventually scored with four minutes left to turn from villain to hero for the Ukrainians after yet another error by Megyeri from a corner kick.

Besides the elimination from Europe, Olympiakos is worried about the injuries to Ibagaza and Maniatis ahead of the potential league decider on Sunday at Panathinaikos.

ekathimerini.com , Friday March 16, 2012 (00:55)  
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