Karelis’s goal was not enough for Greece

“When you do not win, at least make sure you do not lose,” was the motto of the previous Greece coach, Fernando Santos, and his successor on the national team’s bench will probably think this was also the case in the 1-1 draw with Finland in Helsinki on Saturday for the European Championship qualifiers.

The risk that Greece coach Claudio Ranieri took by introducing a previously unseen forward lineup (Charis Mavrias, Nikos Karelis and Stefanos Athanasiadis) seemed to pay off in the first half, but the lack of experience told in the second as the Greeks could not hold on to their lead and risked losing all three points.

Ranieri’s 4-3-3 formation pointed to a clear plan for a quick flow to the game, as Greece needed all three points from this one to even out the home loss to Romania last month.

Finland had a strong start to the game, putting pressure on the Greek defense, but could not really create the chances that would worry keeper Orestis Karnezis.

Greece absorbed the pressure and started pushing forward after the first 20 minutes. With 24 minutes on the clock the ball fell to Karelis who unleashed a swerving shot from the left that swung its way to the left corner of the Finnish goal for 1-0.

The Greeks saw their confidence grow as the time went on and threatened with a second goal before half-time, as the Finns showed frustration.

The start of the second half seemed from an entirely different game, as the hosts grabbed the Greeks by the neck and managed to find an equalizer through a spectacular volley by Jarkko Hurme that left Karnezis stranded.

Finland searched for a second goal afterward as the Greek defense was uncharacteristically wobbly, until Ranieri introduced a third central defender, Vangelis Moras and changed the formation to 3-5-2.

This allowed the Greeks to go forward, but they seemed to stop at the edge of the box in most cases. The introduction of experienced Giorgos Samaras and Costas Mitroglou hardly changed anything in the Greek attack.

“We could have got all three points, but unfortunately [the Finns] equalized the game,” said goalscorer Karelis: “We have shown we are capable of everything and we will keep trying.”

They should do so, as Northern Ireland will be no pushovers on Tuesday in Piraeus, and with one point from two games Greece cannot afford to drop any more points now.

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