Olympiakos braved the freezing conditions in Moscow on Tuesday afternoon to return home with a crucial 1-0 win over Rubin Kazan in the first leg of the Europa League round of 32.
Besides the fierce cold, with the temperature at -12 Celsius at the 3 p.m. local time kickoff, the Reds also suffered the loss of their most experienced player, defender Olof Mellberg, to injury in the first half, as well as having to play for almost 20 minutes with 10 men and being threatened by a penalty kick, which substitute goalkeeper Roy Carroll saved.
Olympiakos emerged victorious thanks to an all-important goal scored in the 71st minute as David Fuster made the most of a poor clearance by the Russian side to slot the ball in, just one minute after Vassilis Torosidis had hit the post for the Greeks.
The enthusiasm generated by the away goal all but vanished a couple of minutes later, though, as a great through-ball split the Olympiakos defense and sent Gokdeniz Karadeniz clear with only keeper Balazs Megyeri to beat. The Reds’ keeper brought the Turk international down, conceding a penalty and receiving a straight red card.
Manager Ernesto Valverde introduced former Manchester United keeper Carroll, replacing scorer Fuster, and the Northern Ireland international dived to his left to save the penalty taken by Bibras Natkho.
The Reds then held on to a result that makes them clear favorites for a spot in the last 16, with the second leg scheduled for February 23 in Piraeus.
Mellberg was injured as he accidentally clashed with Megyeri after 32 minutes and was taken to a Moscow hospital with symptoms of concussion and amnesia.
PAOK, Greece’s other Europa League representative, visits Udinese in Italy on Thursday.