Greece leaves it late, but finally beats Ukraine 1-0

Greece defeated Ukraine 1-0 in Athens yesterday thanks to a late goal by substitute Angelos Charisteas. The victory virtually ensures it second place in the sixth qualifying group for the 2004 European soccer championship. Second place in the group would require Greece to play two playoff matches with a runner-up from another group to qualify for the Euro 2004 finals, in Portugal. But Greece now has a chance to finish first if group leader Spain, which was playing in Northern Ireland late last night, stumbles. Before yesterday’s matches, Ukraine and Greece were equal in points, a point adrift of Spain. After a fast-paced first half, Greek players were listless in the second until about the 70th minute. At that point, recovering a ball that had gone beyond the sideline, the side’s German coach, Otto Rehhagel screamed at his players to show a little more passion. That seemed to energize the players who came forward to fight for the elusive goal. The chance came in the 87th minute. Vassilis Tsartas received a pass on the left side and immediately crossed. Charisteas pounced on the ball and shot it past Ukrainian goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovovsky. Until then, Shovovsky was the match’s hero for having stopped a penalty shot by Stelios Yiannakopoulos in the 16th minute. This was the greatest of several scoring chances the Greek team had in the first half. Ukraine’s best chance came in the 59th minute when Andriy Shevchenko’s shot was blocked by Greek goalie Antonis Nikopolidis. Nikopolidis also made a fine save in the dying seconds of the game to ensure victory. The lineups: Greece: Antonis Nikopolidis, Yourkas Seitaridis, Takis Fyssas, Nikos Dabizas, Traianos Dellas, Michalis Kapsis, Theodoris Zagorakis (Vassilis Tsartas, 72nd min.), Vassilis Lakis (Angelos Charisteas, 46th min.), Zissis Vryzas (Lambros Houtos, 66th min.) Giorgos Karagounis and Stelios Yiannakopoulos Ukraine: Oleksandr Shovovsky, Andriy Nesmachnyy, Sergey Fedorov, Oleksandr Golovko, Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Gusin, Serhiy Zakarlyuka (Maxym Kalinichenko, 90th min.), Andriy Voronin (Adrian Pukanych, 92nd min.) Serhiy Rebrov (Oleksandr Radchenko, 61st min.)

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