Greek champion Olympiakos scored a precious 1-0 away win over Metalist Kharkiv in the first leg of the Europa League?s round-of-16 tie on Thursday and is the favorite to make the quarterfinals of Europe’s second-tier competition.
In what must have seemed like a flashback to 23 days earlier in Moscow, Olympiakos braved the subzero temperatures in Ukraine and stemmed the pressure from the home side in the first half to come home with a result that was identical to its match against Rubin Kazan in the previous round.
The other similarity to the Moscow game on February 14 was that it was once again Spaniard David Fuster who scored the goal for the Reds.
This time it was five minutes into the second half: Kevin Mirallas crossed from the left into the Metalist box, the Ukrainian defense failed to deal with it properly, and Fuster stepped up to beat the Metalist keeper for the game’s only goal.
The goal came against the run of play at the time as the Greeks had had trouble in standing up to the pressure posed by Metalist?s quick players and all of the Olympiakos back four ended the game in the referee’s book.
Swedish defender Olof Mellberg will have to miss the second leg, which will take place on March 15.