Toche earns PAO draw with Lazio
By George Georgakopoulos
Just like against Tottenham three weeks earlier, Toche scored a late equalizer to spare Panathinaikos defeat against Lazio on Thursday and earn the Greens another 1-1 draw in Athens for the Europa League group stage.
A rare own goal by Giourkas Seitaridis put Lazio ahead in the first half, but Panathinaikos forced the Italian team to concede its first goal at the group stage just before full time.
Lazio enjoyed more possession on the field from the start of the game, with Antonio Candreva asking questions at Panathinaikos goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis, while Andre Dias saw his header scrape the upright after 18 minutes.
Panathinaikos winger Ibrahim Sissoko responded with a shot that was cleared by the Lazio defense near the goal line after a great solo effort by Bruno Fornaroli.
The hosts chose to wait at the back for the Lazio attacks and posed some threat in the counter attack, until a rather unusual own goal changed the face of the game in a moment that had promised little for the visitors.
Experienced right-back Seitaridis, who was not under pressure, tried a back pass to Karnezis who was off his line and the ball rolled into the net to the agony of the home crowd in the 25th minute.
The goal spurred the Greek team on to equalize, but it could not get into the Lazio box for the rest of the first half thanks to the good work by the visitors’ defense.
The second half started with both teams pushing forward, but as the time went on the pace of the game dropped, with Lazio enjoying more possession while in the lead, and with substitute Mauro Zarate helping the side from Rome to dominate play.
It was only after the introduction of Ghanaian winger Quincy Owusu-Abeyie halfway through the second half that Panathinaikos upped its game and came close through shots by Lazaros Christodoulopoulos and Quincy that were just off the target. Lazio’s answer was a decent shot by Alvaro Gonzalez that was inches wide.
Lazio keeper Albano Bizzarri produced a crucial save 11 minutes from time as substitute Toche could not translate a solo effort by Quincy into the equalizer.
Panathinaikos pounded on the pressure as the full-time whistle approached and after a Christodoulopoulos shot that was cleared near the goal line, Toche turned the hosts’ superiority into a goal after pouncing home from close range a Vitolo cross from the right on 90 minutes.
Lorik Cana could have won it for Lazio deep into injury time, but his shot went just over the Panathinaikos bar.
The two sides will meet again in two weeks' time in Rome.
The game was marred by clashes between Panathinaikos fans and the police at half time that forced a three-minute stoppage to the game in the second half because of the tear gas the police used. Lazio fans also created trouble on their way to the Athens airport after the game. Six people were arrested and three injured, according to the police.