Dubbed “the friendly game that no one wanted”, Serbia’s 2-0 victory over Greece at Hania on Tuesday will not stay long in the memory of most Greek fans, except perhaps that of the 3,500 supporters who filled up the stands of the Cretan stadium.
Both teams played without a regular coach on their benches, after Greece’s Claudio Ranieri and Serbia’s Dick Advocaat left within the last few days, meaning that Greece had to resort to Under-21 manager Costas Tsanas as a caretaker.
In this fifth consecutive home game for Greece this year without scoring a goal, including three competitive matches for the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Greece suffered its fifth defeat, to let down the faithful fans at Hania who have their own Greece fan club, Galanolefkos Faros (i.e. Blue and White Beacon). It was in honor of this that the national team hosted the game at the western Cretan city.
Greece, who should have been given a penalty for a foul on Lazaros Christodoulopoulos after 10 minutes, appeared less nervous than in previous games but still bereft of ideas in attack and solidity at the back, against a slightly better Serbia.
Just like against the Faroe Islands four days earlier, it was around the hour mark that Greece conceded a goal, but this time it was from a set piece: Serbia earned a free kick that Radosav Petrovic headed home beating Greece keeper Panayiotis Glykos.
Then two minutes into injury time defensive midfielder Yiannis Maniatis allowed Nemanja Gudelj to take a spectacular, swerving long-range shot that left Glykos stranded for 2-0 – a goal that was even applauded by the Greek fans at the stands.
The question now for the Greek national team is who can manage it out of trouble and back into contention for a spot in the Euro 2016. But above all, the federation needs to find the man who will convince Greek fans that the Blue-and-Whites can still give them something extraordinary from the weekly diet of misery in Greek soccer.