Olympiakos sunk by late goals

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Ryan Giggs and Ruud Van Nistelrooy broke stubborn Olympiakos resistance with three goals in the last 11 minutes on Tuesday night for a 3-0 Old Trafford triumph to guide Manchester United into the second phase of the Champions League. After goalkeeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos had saved a Van Nistelrooy penalty and made a series of acrobatic stops, Solskjaer came off the bench for his 50th Champions League game and 30th as substitute to calm the nerves of the Reds’ fans with a 79th minute strike. Then Giggs collected a pass from Juan Sebastian Veron for the second and Van Nistelrooy finished off a slick move for the third in the third minute of injury time. The result gave United nine points which, with third place Lille failing to beat leader Deportivo de La Coruna, means it guarantees a place among the top two and a second-round spot. Olympiakos, with four points from five games, and one left to play, are now out. Manchester United captain Roy Keane missed the game through injury while Olympiakos Brazilian forward Giovanni had been suspended after being sent off last week against Lille. In the early stages, Olympiakos goalkeeper Eleftheropoulos did well to block a close-range header from Van Nistelrooy with defender Christos Kontis clearing the rebound off the line under pressure from Paul Scholes. Eleftheropoulos also beat out a shot from Veron after the Argentine star collected a cross on his chest and neatly lobbed the ball over a defender. The Greek champion claimed a penalty when Alexios Alexandris got clear of Laurent Blanc in the 23rd minute and had only keeper Fabien Barthez to beat. The veteran French defender got back to atone with a sliding tackle that brought the forward down, but Portuguese referee Vitor Melo Pereira ruled it wasn’t a foul. Second-half substitute Ilias Poursanidis shaved the post with a low left foot shot after being expertly set up by French star Christian Karembeu. United should have gone ahead in the 62nd minute but missed a penalty. Van Nistelrooy collected a cross from Beckham, was tripped as he rounded the keeper and also saw his goalbound shot blocked by a defender’s arm. The referee had two reasons to give the spot kick, which the Dutchman took only for Eleftheropoulos to save brilliantly by diving to his right. The Olympiakos keeper came up with another standout save 14 minutes from the end when he touched Veron’s 30-yard free kick onto the inside of the post. United sent on Solskjaer to try and make a breakthrough and he did that 11 minutes from the end. Van Nistelrooy opened up the defense with a mazy dribble on the right to find the Norwegian unmarked and in front of goal and Solskjaer, who had only been on the field for four minutes, fired into the roof of the net. The second goal came two minutes from the end when Veron’s well-struck forward pass found Giggs running clear of the Olympiakos defense and the Welshman, captain for the night, steered the ball home at the far post. The Greeks at last looked beaten and when Beckham, Giggs, Veron and Van Nistelrooy combined with a slick move, the Dutchman rolled in the third. (AP)

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