Lazaros comes forth for Greece

Lazaros Christodoulopoulos gifted Greece an important 1-0 win at Lithuania for the World Cup qualifiers on Friday that consolidated the national team on the second spot of its pool.

Yet Bosnia’s 5-0 win at Latvia on the night means that Greece stayed three points behind its fellow Balkan rival and will likely need to negotiate a two-leg playoff in November to make the World Cup finals in Brazil.

Playing on an artificial pitch at Vilnius, Greece shook off the lack of ample preparation for the game and the tiredness due to the end of the season, to translate its superiority in theory into victory, in what was a must-win game.

Greece’s goal came in the 20th minute. Jose Holebas produced a great cross from the left to pick Christodoulopoulos on the edge of the six-yard box. The Bologna winger rose unmarked and opened the score with a bullet header.

The first half had little action, with Greece keeper Orestis Karnezis palming away an effort by Tomas Mikuckis in the 24th minute, in the hosts’ best opportunity of the first 45 minutes.

Holebas then got injured during a challenge and was substituted at half-time by Giorgos Tzavellas.

Four minutes into the second half it was another good cross, this time by Giorgos Karagounis from the right that found the head of unmarked Fanis Gekas in the area, but the Greek center forward could not beat Lithuanian goalie Emilijus Zubas.

The hosts’ best moment was on the hour mark when a Kestutis Ivaskevicius shot sailed just wide of the Greece post.

Three minutes later it was Gekas’s turn to get substituted, after pulling a muscle. Dimitris Salpingidis replaced him; he and Giorgos Samaras will miss the next game, against Lichtenstein, after getting booked on Friday.

Salpingidis did come close to scoring in the last minute of the game when his powerful shot from close range came off the Lithuanian crossbar, following a clever Samaras pass.