Greece held to scoreless draw

Turkey held European champion Greece to a goalless draw on Wednesday night in a Group 2 World Cup qualifier in a match filled with end-to-end play and fruitless chances. The result left Ukraine and Georgia atop the group with four points each, two ahead of Turkey and three better than Greece. Ukraine won 2-1 at Kazakhstan earlier on Wednesday, while Georgia defeated Albania 2-0 in Tbilisi. Albania, which upset Greece 2-1 on Saturday, has three points. The match, before a capacity crowd of 33,000 at the Karaiskaki Stadium, was the first official encounter between the two neighbors and traditional rivals in front of only Greek fans. Turkey’s soccer federation did not request tickets, fearing possible crowd trouble. More than 1,000 police provided security for the game. Fans were not allowed to carry coins or lighters into the stadium, and police confiscated banners deemed offensive to the Turkish team. «It was a very good match and the result was fair,» Greece coach Otto Rehhagel said. «It’s better to win, but Turkey played very well. We didn’t make the mistakes we made in Albania.» Greece played without its defender Traianos Dellas, who also missed the Albanian clash. Turkey missed suspended midfielder Hasan Sas, red-carded against Georgia on Saturday, as well as injured striker Hakan Sukur. Both teams struggled for control in midfield. Greece had its first chance in the 17th minute when Stelios Yiannakopoulos burst through the Turkish defense, but his shot was flicked away by Servet Cetin with keeper Rustu Recber already beaten. The visitors had their first opportunity in the 25th when Greek keeper Antonis Nikopolidis blocked Nihat Kahveci’s powerful shot from inside the area. Greece’s Angelos Basinas narrowly avoided an own goal when his header hit the crossbar in the 36th. And in the dying minutes of the first half, Recber leaped to grab a clever lob by Costas Katsouranis. Greece pushed forward in the second half, but the Turks, surprise semifinalists in the 2002 World Cup, resisted well. Both teams scrambled for a late winner with successive fast breaks. «We’re not at the level we should be playing but we’ll fight to the end,» Greek striker Zissis Vryzas said. Turkish coach Ersun Yanal said: «Both teams had chances and we managed to control the match. We managed to win a point and it seems this group will be decided down to the final matches. If we were calmer, we could have won but Greece is very good in defense as we saw in the Euro 2004 and we couldn’t score.» Greek defender Michalis Kapsis said that until Greece’s next match with Ukraine on October 9, it would try to correct its errors. (AP, AFP)

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