Besiktas took a deserved 1-1 draw in Piraeus on Thursday leaving Olympiakos with a mountain to climb in the return leg seven nights later if it is to advance to the quarterfinals of the Europa League.
Olympiakos actually played quite well against the Turkish champion overall and could have won the game had it not been for an error by its goalkeeper, Nicola Leali early in the second half that allowed the Turks to equalize.
In a very difficult week, coming from the third straight league loss at PAOK on Sunday and the sacking of manager Paulo Bento on Monday, the Reds stood up against a well-prepared team, with Esteban Cambiasso being the man of the match for the Greeks.
Caretaking coach Vassilis Vouzas brought the experienced Argentine back from the wilderness where Bento had kept him for months, and Cambiasso not only marshaled the midfield, but also went on to score the team’s sole goal. His professionalism is the example that the rest of the team ought to follow.
In a fairly balanced first half Olympiakos contained the Besiktas attack and asked some questions at its defense, peaking on the 36th minute when Cambiasso headed the ball home to give the Reds the lead.
Yet the hosts’ enthusiasm vanished eight minutes into the second half when Alberto Botia tried to pass the ball back to Leali, the Italian keeper misjudged it and Vincent Aboubakar capitalized on the mistake to score the equalizer.
Besiktas missed more chances as the substitution of Cambiasso left a hole in the Greeks’ midfield, but Besiktas could not find a winner on the night.
The second leg is taking place on March 16 in Istanbul.
In Nicosia APOEL lost 1-0 to Anderlecht.