SPORTS

PAOK is one win from Europa League’s last 32

A late brace by Stefanos Athanasiadis gifted PAOK a precious win at Dynamo Minsk on Thursday, meaning that the Thessaloniki team is one win away from graduating from the group stage of the Europa League, while Asteras Tripolis followed Panathinaikos on the way out of the tournament with its draw against Besiktas, as the Greens lost at Dynamo Moscow.

All three Greek teams had rather good performances on the night, but PAOK faced a significantly inferior team (which it had beaten 6-1 at home) and grabbed victory in Belarus.

The game was rather balanced for the first hour, but after that PAOK dominated play entirely and it was only a matter of time until it got to score.

Eventually the goal came on the 82nd minute as Facundo Pereyra rolled the ball across goal to find Athanasiadis and he scored PAOK’s first goal from close range.

Six minutes later a similar play unfolded as Pereyra stormed once again from the right to cross the ball to Ergys Kace in the box. The Albanian could not score but the ball rolled to Athanasiadis who made it 2-0 and sealed victory for PAOK.

Now all PAOK needs is to defeat French side Guingamp in two weeks’ time in Thessaloniki to qualify to the last 32 of the competition.

Asteras Tripolis drew 2-2 with 10-man Besiktas after coming from 2-0 down at home.

A great right-foot volley by Demba Ba on the 15th minute put Besiktas ahead against the run of play, that had earlier seen the hosts hit the crossbar.

As the game went on the quality of the visitors became clearer while Asteras often appeared unable to contain them.

Asteras defender Dorin Goian conceded a penalty on the 60th minute and Gokhan Tore doubled Besiktas’s lead from the spot.

Then suddenly a goal and red card upset the balance of the game with 18 minutes left. Papa Khalifa Sankare crossed and Jeronimo Barrales made it 2-1 with a header, before Atiba Hutchinson left Besiktas with 10 men.

Eight minutes from time Facundo Parra beat the Besiktas keeper for 2-2 and then Asteras threw everything at the Turkish goal to score the all-important win that would have kept its hopes for progress intact. It was not meant to be though…

Panathinaikos, that had missed out on qualification from the previous round of games, lost 2-1 at Dynamo Moscow, despite leading at half-time.

The Greens led after 13 minutes as Nano crossed from the left to the edge of the six-yard box where Marcus Berg beat his opponent to score his first goal in the group stage of the Europa League. Perhaps the fate of Panathinaikos in the group would have been different had Berg not been out injured in September and October.

Dynamo equalized nine minutes into the second half as William Vainqueur’s shot was deflected by Costas Triantafayllopoulos into the Stefanos Kotsolis goal. It counted as an own goal.

The game’s turnaround was completed six minutes on as Panathinaikos midfielder David Mendez was caught in possession by Christian Noboa, with Aleksei Ionov capitalizing to make it 2-1. Dynamo also hit the woodwork twice in the game.