Late goals not enough for the Reds against Sporting


A disastrous first half for Olympiakos gave Sporting Lisbon the chance to conquer Piraeus with a 3-2 score on Tuesday on the opening night of the Champions League group stage. The result means that in a group with Barcelona and Juventus, Olympiakos is the favorite to finish fourth right from day 1.

The lack of any adequate holding midfielders in their starting line-up and the sheer quality of Sporting cost the Reds dearly on the night. There was also inadequate preparation to tackle Sporting's game.

It appeared the Greek team was more distracted at the start by the hot atmosphere at the stands of the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium than the visitors, as the Portuguese got to score twice in the first quarter of an hour.

It was barely 70 seconds after kick-off when the Olympiakos defense failed to clear a Marcos Acuna freekick from the right and Seydou Doumbia headed the ball home to open the score.

Just over 10 minutes later Sporting made it 2-0 through a counter-attack after an Olympiakos corner kick. The Portuguese got on the break with Doumbia and Gelson Martins, with the latter beating Olympiakos goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino amid jeering by the home fans.

The problems in midfield continued for the Greeks, with Sporting coming close to a third goal on the 18th minute by hitting the woodwork through a Bruno Fernandes shot from outside the area.

After the first 20 minutes Olympiakos raised its game in attack, but the problems in defense remained as Gelson hit the woodwork again in the counter on the 40th minute, and three minutes later Fernandes added Sporting’s third goal seeing off Kapino with the Reds’ defense conspicuously absent.

Sporting clearly dropped a gear at half-time, made some substitutions later on and Olympiakos asked some questions at the Portuguese goal in the second half.

The best chance for the Greek champion was on the 62nd minute when an Uros Djurdjevic effort was cleared just before the goal line by Sebastian Coates.

Substitute Bas Dost became the third Sporting player to be denied by the woodwork two minutes from time.

A minute later supersub Felipe Pardo cut the deficit for the Reds with his left foot and deep in injury time, after a Diogo Figueiras cross, he added a second that somewhat eased the suffering for the home fans.

It is not going to get any easier for Olympiakos next, as it must visit Juventus on September 27.