Olympiakos dominates

A header after 17 minutes by Greek international Heroklis Stoltidis was enough to give Olympiakos a 1-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday and three points, which put the club top of Group A in the Champions League. Just one goal, however, did not do justice to a game that Olympiakos, often inspired by its ex-Brazilian international Rivaldo, dominated from start to finish. It was an historic night for the Greek side who last beat an English club back in November 1972 when it scored a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in a UEFA Cup second-round, second-leg match – although it had already lost the first leg 4-0. This time Olympiakos was in charge of proceedings almost throughout and twice hit the woodwork. It also had at least three other clear scoring chances, including a blistering shot from Rivaldo from outside the penalty area that whipped past the post. Liverpool, who had never previously lost to a Greek side in six previous meetings, was poor in the first half and, even after bringing on Harry Kewell at halftime, failed to bring a single save out of Olympiakos goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis. Olympiakos set the early pace when Cypriot striker Yiannakis Okkas struck the post after five minutes. Twelve minutes later, a well-flighted Rivaldo free kick floated over the Liverpool defense and Stoltidis headed the ball home. By halftime, Olympiakos might have had five as Rivaldo, his Brazilian colleague Giovanni, and Pantelis Kafes all went close. Liverpool showed more steel in the second half but it was the Greek side that again had the best chances with Stoltidis heading against the bar and substitute Giorgos Georgiadis firing just wide in the closing minutes. The only black spot on a memorable night for the home side was the red card shown to Olympiakos defender Tassos Pantos eight minutes from time, but it was a blacker night for Liverpool who failed to score away from home in Europe for the first time in 11 matches. If the players and officials at Olympiakos were happy about the win over Liverpool, then their fans were delirious. It was the first big game at the rebuilt Karaiskaki Stadium in Faliron and the ground was packed. «I must say a special thank you to the supporters,» said Olympiakos coach Dusan Bajevic. «They were wonderful throughout the match but especially in the last seven or eight minutes when we were down to 10 men.» (Reuters)

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