Zeca brace keeps Greens’ European hopes alive

Panathinaikos defeated Xanthi comprehensively with a 3-0 score in a Super League playoff on Thursday to claim the sixth spot that might lead the Greens back to Europe next season.

Both clubs had the same number of points and head-to-head records, so a playoff was required to decide which team would be the last to represent Greece in next season’s Europa League should any of the four teams that have entered the playoffs fail to secure a license to play in Europe.

Playing at Nea Smyrni – despite some people’s efforts to avert that by through nails and paint onto the pitch the night before – Panathinaikos was a class above Xanthi that played for about 50 minutes with a man less due to the dismissal of Serge Aristide Die.

The Greens led from the 27th minute through a Zeca strike after a great one-two with Costas Barbarousis, the New Zealand international.

The Portuguese midfielder added a second in the 61st minute after his long-range shot was deflected into the Xanthi net by a defender.

Former Argentina international Luciano Figueroa completed Panathinaikos’s victory in style as he scored a beauty from 30 meters away in the 76th minute.