Panathinaikos’s impressive run in the UEFA Cup comes to an end

Portuguese team Porto ended Panathinaikos’s ambitious run in the UEFA Cup this season by upsetting the Greek side 2-0 at home in a second-leg quarterfinal clash in Athens last night that held over into extra time. Panathinaikos went into the game with a 1-0 lead after defeating its rival away in last week’s first leg. Both sides were vying for their first semifinal berth in the competition. Applauded by a capacity crowd at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens, despite its failure, Panathinaikos missed out on becoming Greece’s second-ever team to get to the UEFA Cup’s last four. AEK did so in 1976-77 before falling to that season’s eventual champion, Juventus. Porto, its domestic league’s front runner with just one loss from 25 games, entered last night’s game assertively. A free kick in the second minute, struck by Mario Silva from the right, was palmed from behind by goalie Antonis Nikopolidis. The Portuguese visitors stunned the home crowd by opening the scoring in the 15th minute – and leveling on aggregate – when Brazilian midfielder Derlei let go of a low, swirling shot that went into the net off the near post. Seeing its team in trouble has not been a familiar sight for Panathinaikos fans. Prior to last night, Panathinaikos’s European record at the ground since the club’s return in 2001 has been daunting with 10 wins and two draws from 12 games. After managing to even the game out, Panathinaikos came close to an equalizer just after the half-hour mark when striker Nikos Lymberopoulos chested down and fired in a stinging volley. It forced a splendid save out of Porto keeper Vitor Baia who deflected the ball onto the crossbar. Panathinaikos was deprived of what appeared to be a penalty in the 42nd minute when striker Emmanuel Olisadebe was brought down in the box after a strong challenge from Ricardo Carvalho. The tie’s 1-1 aggregate score was broken in the 13th minute of extra time when Derlei snatched his second goal for the night. He held off a challenge from defender Yourkas Seitaridis to slot a right-footer past Nikopolidis at his near post.

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