SPORTS

Rehhagel restrained despite latest victory

Greece extended their unbeaten run to a record 14 internationals on Wednesday night after a comfortable 2-0 victory over fellow Euro 2004 qualifiers Bulgaria. But Greece coach Otto Rehhagel warned not to expect the same run at this year’s tournament in Portugal. «We are not a wonder team,» the German told reporters. «We have shown that we are able to beat stronger teams and we will, as outsiders, attempt to do that in Portugal.» In-form striker Dimitris Papadopoulos scored his team’s first with a close-range effort, consolidating his place in the squad that will travel to Portugal. Papadopoulos, who has scored 10 goals in 17 games for his club Panathinaikos this season despite a two-month injury absence, pounced on a loose ball inside the penalty area to give his team the lead in the 26th minute. Bulgaria shifted up a gear and came close to an equalizer four minutes later when Dimitar Berbatov failed to beat goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis twice from close range and then hit the post. But it was Greece who scored again when substitute striker Zisis Vryzas netted on the hour after a pinpoint cross from Vassilis Tsiartas. Bulgaria could have pulled one back, but substitute Zoran Iankovich’s 72nd-minute header was saved by Nikopolidis. Bulgaria coach Plamen Markov said his side had plenty of work to do. «We really needed such a game this evening against a strong team but we have still a lot of work to do until the Euros,» he said. «The loss is… logical because we made a lot of mistakes.» «We lacked concentration, but I believe we will perform better in following friendlies,» captain Stilian Petrov told Bulgarian news agency BTA. Earlier on Wednesday, Bulgaria’s under-21 side suffered a 3-1 defeat by Greece. «I don’t think the defeats are fatal but a red light should come on for the two coaches,» Ivan Vutsov, in charge of the national teams at the Bulgarian Football Union, told reporters after Wednesday’s match. The Greeks have won 10 of their last 14 games. «I was happy the boys were motivated enough today to keep such a positive run going, and we hope, once the injured players join us, to go all the way to Portugal with no other injuries,» Rehhagel said. Greece has friendlies scheduled before the European Championships against Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and Liechtenstein. Bulgaria’s next friendly is against Russia in Sofia on March 31. The Balkan side will also play a friendly against the Czech Republic on June 2. A match against Cameroon on April 28 has not yet been nailed down. (Reuters)