SPORTS

Reds lose in Paris but qualification is in their grasp

Olympiakos came within a few minutes from sealing qualification to the next round of the Champions League on Wednesday, but eventually succumbed to ten-man Paris St Germain 2-1 in France and will need to beat Anderlecht in Piraeus in the last group game on December 10 to make the last 16.

The Reds matched their hosts at the Parc des Princes with their clever tactics and their physical game throughout the match, but they lacked the quality that would have seen them get something out of the match in Paris, given also their numerical advantage for most of the second half due to the second yellow card shown to Marco Verrati.

With top scorer Costas Mitroglou failing to bring his scoring boots for the occasion, Olympiakos posed little threat in attack but was much tighter in defense than in the first game between the two sides, that had ended with a 4-1 loss for the host in Piraeus.

The French led from as early as the seventh minute when talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic beat Olympiakos keeper Roberto from close range after a cross from the right by Gregory Van der Wiel.

Olympiakos had its chances to get back on level terms but this just wasn’t Mitroglou’s night. Roberto on the other end kept the score at 1-0 with two remarkable saves on either side of the moment Verrati saw red.

What Olympiakos was unable to do with a man’s advantage it did when it played with 10 men against 10: Mitroglou limped off injured and stayed out for about six minutes, during which the Greek champions equalized. Chori Dominguez (from an offside position) took a shot at PSG keeper Salvatore Sirigu and Costas Manolas got on the rebound to slot the ball home with 10 minutes left on the clock.

At that point, and with the score in Brussels between Anderlecht and Benfica at 2-2, Olympiakos was already in the last 16 of the Champions League. Yet within one minute everything changed in both games.

Benfica scored a last-minute winning goal to triumph 3-2 in Brussels, while Paris SG made it 2-1 thanks to an Edinson Cavani strike that secured the top spot in the group for the French club.

Olympiakos now lies joint second with Benfica on seven points from five games and needs in its game against eliminated Anderlecht to match Benfica’s result against Paris SG in Lisbon. That shouldn’t be too difficult…