Olympiakos keeps alive its Champions League hopes

Olympiakos convincingly beat Turkey’s Galatasaray 3-0 Wednesday night to give the Greek club a slim chance of advancing to the next stage of the Champions League. AEK, also playing Wednesday, saw its slender hopes of a place in the competition’s next round end, following a 2-0 away defeat by PSV Eindhoven. Moreover, the result almost surely erases AEK’s hopes of a consolatory place in the less prestigious UEFA Cup’s third round provided by third place. Last night, in a second-round, first-leg UEFA Cup tie in Athens, Panionios, playing against Spanish giant Barcelona, lost 3-0. With two rounds of group play remaining in the Champions League’s first phase, Olympiakos lies third in Group D with three points from four games, four points behind second-placed Real Sociedad, which it would need to overtake to continue in the Champions League. In Group C, AEK is last with just a point from four games, five points behind third-placed PSV. Monaco, which registered a remarkable 8-3 win over Deportivo, a record score in Champions League history, leads Group C with nine points and Deportivo follows two points behind. For Olympiakos, the goals, which provided the Greek league’s front runner with its first Champions League victory this season, came from Dimitris Mavrogennidis, Uruguay’s Nery Castillo and Brazil’s Giovanni. «We had lost three games and we were hungry for a win. It was time to get some points as well as play well,» Olympiakos’s Ukrainian coach Oleg Protasov said after the game. The hard-fought match, played before a sold-out 14,000 crowd at the Giorgos Kamaras Stadium in western Athens, forced Slovakian referee Lubos Michel to show a red card first to Akman Ayhan of Galatasaray and then to Olympiakos’s inspirational midfielder Predrag Djordjevic in the last minutes of the game. Olympiakos took the lead in the sixth minute with a bullet-like volley from 16 meters by 19-year-old Mavrogennidis. Castillo exploited a mistake by Dutch defender Frank De Boer in the 34th to make the score 2-0 to Olympiakos. The last part of the game saw the visitors setting the pace but they were vulnerable to Olympiakos’s lightning counterattacks. In one such offensive in the fourth minute of injury time, Giovanni received a deep pass and beautifully lobbed Mondragon to make the final score 3-0. (AP, Kathimerini)