Ten-man Panathinaikos turned bad luck into a rather good result as it beat visiting Club Bruges 2-1 in the first leg of the Champions League third qualifying round on Tuesday.
The Greens braved the loss of a penalty kick and the red card to one of its central defenders from the 43rd minute to score a precious victory in an action-packed game at the Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium in Athens.
The Belgians opened the score before the completion of the 10th minute as Bolingoli Mbobbo capitalized of a storm in the Greek defense to slot the ball home.
Playing with three at the back the Belgians were able to weather the Panathinaikos attacks in the first half-hour, while the center of the Greek defense had major problems in containing the visitors, partly due to the inability of Giorgos Koutroumbis as the lone holding midfielder to lift a barrier to the Belgian strikers.
When Sotiris Ninis fed Nikos Karelis in the box he was fouled and the penalty was given, but Marcus Berg saw his spot kick parried by Bruges keeper Sebastien Bruzzese on the 34th minute.
Yet the Swedish striker was not to be denied again three minutes later when he made it 1-1 from a close range after a cross by Ninis, as the Belgian back line started wavering.
Things turned more difficult for Panathinaikos just before half-time with the red card shown to central defender Sergio Sanchez for shirt-pulling.
Bruges was dominant in the second half, enjoying a man’s advantage and trying to beat the error-prone Greek defense.
However in a rare attack for the Greens in the 65th minute they earned another penalty after a Mbombo handball, and this time Karelis converted it for 2-1.
As the time went on the intense heat (31 degrees centigrade) took its toll mainly on the visitors, with Panathinaikos gaining some ground in its effort to hold on to the result.
The return leg is scheduled for August 5 in Belgium.