PAO wins to stay alive in Europa League chase

It took a disputed penalty that Victor Vitolo converted for Panathinaikos to score its first Europa League win this season, beating 10-man NK Maribor 1-0 in Athens on Thursday, and retain some hope of making the next round of the competition.

The Greens will need to beat Tottenham in London to advance to the last 32 of the Europa League, but at least they have managed to get that elusive win that has also taken them off the bottom of their pool for the first time, with one game left to play.

While the Greens did not deserve to get the penalty they scored from, they definitely deserved victory at the Olympic Stadium on the night as they completely outplayed their Slovenian visitors and could have easily matched the 3-0 score they had lost with earlier this fall in Slovenia, had luck been on their side.

Before and after Vitolo’s successfully converted penalty in the 67th minute, Panathinaikos missed a host of chances, including a one-on-one of Toche with Maribor keeper Jasmin Handanovic, a missed penalty kick by Vitolo that hit the upright 10 minutes before the Spaniard got his revenge, and a freak save by… Toche on the line as he mistakenly stopped the course of the ball to the net from a Bruno Fornaroli effort.

Maribor played with 10 men from the end of the first half when Ales Mejac received a second yellow card for a hand ball just outside the penalty area.

The bad news for Panathinaikos coach Juan Ramon Rocha is that influential winger Quincy Owusu-Abeyie limped off the pitch in the first half and may have pulled a hamstring.

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