In one of its poorest home matches in recent memory Greece lost 1-0 to 10-man Romania behind closed doors in Piraeus at the opening game for the Euro 2016 qualifiers on Sunday.
On the debut of Italian coach Claudio Ranieri, Greece grew frustrated against a well-marshaled Romanian defense. This explains the numerous errors and the three yellow cards Greece counted in the first half.
The problem for Ranieri was that he did not even get the chance for a friendly game before one of the most important games in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. It cannot be a coincidence that since 1995 all of the last five managers of the Greek national team, including Otto Rehhagel, have failed to score a win on their Greece debut.
Jose Holevas conceded a penalty to Alexandru Chipciu as early as the ninth minute of the game, that Romania captain Ciprian Marica converted a minute later for 1-0.
Greece keeper Orestis Karnezis averted a second goal for Romania on the last minute of the first half as he blocked a header by Dragos Grigore, when Greece played with 10 men for a moment due to an injury to Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Ranieri saw the poor performance by Giorgos Samaras in the first half and replaced him at half-time with debutant Dimitris Diamantakos. Instead, Costas Mitroglou played the full 90 minutes, although he was a far cry from the player who 10 months earlier had settled the World Cup playoffs between these two teams with his three goals in two games.
Romania was left with 10 men seven minutes into the second half as Marica got his second yellow card for a foul on Andreas Samaris. That marked the start of the Greek offensive, which led to a string of chances created and missed by the Blue-and-Whites.
Despite the decision by Ranieri to substitute Greece’s two best midfielders on the night, Petros Manatalos and Samaris, choosing instead to keep out-of-shape Panayiotis Tachtsidis on, the Greeks put great pressure on the visitors’ back line.
The best chance for Greece came two minutes from the end when a Vassilis Torosidis header came off the crossbar.
However Greece did not have the quality that was necessary to win this game, and will have to work hard to cover the ground lost in the next two games scheduled for next month. They are a trip to Finland on October 11 and a home game with Northern Ireland three days later.