Tsiartas revives Greek hopes

Substitute Vassilis Tsiartas equalized in the 81st minute on Saturday as European champion Greece came back to hold Group 2 rival Ukraine to a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifying match at the Olympic stadium in Kiev. The draw keeps struggling Greece within striking distance of a finals berth in Germany in 2006. AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko gave Ukraine the lead in the 49th minute after a blunder by Greece goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis, who let a free kick from the side of the penalty box roll between his legs and into the net. Tsiartas, who came on in the 70th minute, then fired a free kick from 27 meters that gave the Greeks just their second point after three qualifying matches. Ukraine and Turkey, both on five points apiece after three games, share Group 2’s top spot. Georgia and Denmark lie a point behind with a game in hand, and Albania follows with three points from three games. Bottom-placed Kazakhstan, Greece’s next opponent, at home on November 17, has yet to gain a point after two attempts. Playing on a slippery field through constant drizzle, Ukraine missed its first scoring opportunity in the 10th minute when Andriy Vorobey failed to beat Nikopolidis in a one-on-one situation. Shevchenko wasted another chance later in the half, failing to score from 5 meters. Though Ukraine was looking dangerous, it was Greece that should have gone into the break in front when, after 38 minutes, defender Traianos Dellas spotted Stelios Giannakopoulos, but the unmarked midfielder headed straight to the keeper. The winners of eight European qualifying groups, as well as the two runners-up with the best records, will qualify automatically for the finals in Germany. The other six second-placed teams will be paired up for three home-and-away playoff encounters, to battle for three additional berths reserved for European entries. Germany, as host, qualifies automatically. (AP, Kathimerini)