SPORTS

Olympiakos keeps Deportivo in check, earns scoreless draw

Olympiakos began its Champions League campaign on Wednesday with a scoreless away draw against Spanish club Deportivo, semifinalists last season. The draw ended a streak of eight successive away defeats at the competition for Olympiakos, whose last away draw was also against Deportivo, at La Coruna. Deportivo has made a shaky start in the Spanish league, losing twice, and was little better yesterday. Olympiakos was unlucky not to take the lead in the first half, when Deportivo looked nervous throughout and only managed to threaten from two set pieces. The Spanish club was missing the stabilizing influence of injured veteran midfielder Mauro Silva, a member of Brazil’s World Cup winning team in 1994. At 36, Mauro Silva has slowed down a bit but his presence was still felt. Another Brazilian World Cup winner, in 2002 in his case, 32-year-old Rivaldo, made his official debut for Olympiakos yesterday. Rivaldo, who played for Deportivo for one season in 1996-97, was quite active, especially in the first half, on the right wing at midfield. It was he who missed Olympiakos’s first chance, in the 14th minute, sending a spectacular overhead kick on to the roof of the net after fellow Brazilian Giovanni had nodded on a lofted pass from the back. Minutes later Giovanni beat Deportivo’s defense in the air once again, but this time striker Yiannakis Okkas was unable to get his foot to the ball as it spun across the face of the goal. Olympiakos lost its best chance in the 26th minute when Deportivo goalkeeper Jose Molina failed to clear a free kick from Rivaldo. Olympiakos’s Argentinean defender Gabriel Schurrer – another former Deportivo player – hit a powerful follow-up shot from close range straight at Molina, who blocked it this time. Deportivo came out more lively in the second half and almost immediately lost a big chance to open the score. A low cross from Luque did not look likely to reach Walter Pandiani at the far post, but Schurrer stumbled and the goal was suddenly open. However, the Uruguayan mistimed his run and just missed. From that point on, Deportivo dominated ball possession but, although they pressed forward relentlessly, they were unable to complete their passing moves and create scoring opportunities. Olympiakos defended admirably and broke forward whenever possible. However, Rivaldo was less influential than during the first half; he often found himself isolated and was not supported enough by his teammates. Thus, he often resorted to individual efforts, including a spectacular run when he dribbled past two defenders and unleashed a shot that was blocked by a desperately lunging third defender. In the end, a tiring Rivaldo resorted to long-range shots that hardly tested Molina. At the other end, and despite the runs of Juan Carlos Valeron, Deportivo was unable to mount a dangerous attack and in the end many of its disappointed fans expressed their frustration by whistling at the players. «It is always good not to concede a goal, but we must also learn to score,» Olympiakos coach Dusan Bajevic said early yesterday morning, upon the team’s arrival in Athens. «We made a good beginning, winning a point against a tough opponent,» he added. (Combined reports)