SPORTS

Olympiakos recovers to snatch victory

Olympiakos snatched their first Champions League win of the season by coming from a goal down to beat Lille 2-1 in Group G late on Wednesday. Strikes from Alekos Alexandris and Andreas Niniadis dragged the Greeks back into a match that the clever counterattacking French team had looked like winning at halftime. Olympiakos put immediate pressure on the visitors’ defense, forcing a string of corners, but could not unlock the tight and composed Lille back line. Veteran striker Alekos Alexandris flashed an 18th-minute shot over the bar after a neat turn but the hosts, for all their pressure, created few clear chances. The French side’s swift breaking style slowly relieved pressure on their defense, with the excellent Benoit Cheyrou finding acres of space on the left. Cheyrou fed Togo striker Adenkami Olufade in the 23rd minute whose sharp downward header beat Dimitris Eleftheropoulos but bounced off the wrong side of the post. Midfield pair Christophe Landrin and Fernando D’Amico started to see more of the ball as the balance swung in favor of the visitors. Landrin burst into the area just after the half hour to fire a shot from 10 yards that clipped the bar. Cheyrou then rattled the woodwork with a left-foot effort from the edge of the area and suddenly Olympiakos were struggling. Fifth-minute substitute Salaheddine Bassir then silenced the raucous home stands in the 37th minute with a snaking run through the back line before producing an excellent left-foot finish. Lille goalkeeper Gregory Wimbee kept them ahead with point-blank saves from Predrag Djordjevic either side of the break until home pressure told in the 51st minute. Alexandris scrambled home a loose ball to swing the game back into Olympiakos’s favor. Eight minutes later, substitute Niniadis sprung Lille’s offside trap to score with almost his first touch since coming on. Brazilian Giovanni saw red in the dying stages as the referee spotted an off-the-ball incident but Olympiakos held on to join Lille on four points behind leaders Deportivo Coruna of Spain (8) and England’s Manchester United (6). After the match, Lille coach Vahid Hallihodzic vented his frustration on match officials and his inexperienced defenders. The match officials, especially the linesmen, were not fit for the Champions League, said Hallihodzic. I need to see a television replay of their second goal but from where I was standing it looked offside, he added. (A television replay showed Niniadis was well inside when the ball was passed to him.) The Bosnian coach was also unhappy with his own players who let Niniadis skip through. I told them at halftime not to over-rely on the offside trap, but they didn’t listen. I said, be very careful at the start of each half and guard against being caught playing offside all the time. But this is an inexperienced team so these things happen, added the Lille coach. Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis paid tribute to his side’s approach after going into the break a goal down. When I went into the changing room and saw my players at halftime I knew that even if we ended up losing their attitude was right, he said. They showed the desire and determination. The only thing that has been missing for us recently is luck, we just needed a result tonight, he said.