Panathinaikos times it just right

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany – Goals by Goran Vlaovic and Angelos Basinas late on Tuesday led Panathinaikos Athens past German club Schalke in the two teams’ opening Champions League match. Vlaovic, minutes after being inserted into the match, curled a 75th-minute free kick around the wall that flew just inside the left post. Basinas, swooping down from the left unmarked, then slotted home a cross in the 80th minute as Schalke vainly pressed for the equalizer in the Group C match-up against the Greeks. Panathinaikos has not yet started its season in Greece, but it did not allow Schalke – the 1997 UEFA champions – a decent scoring chance in the first half. Despite 52,333 spectators in Schalke’s new domed stadium, one of Europe’s noisiest, the crowd was noticeably subdued because of the terrorist attacks earlier in the day in the United States. Our heads weren’t clear – it was hard to concentrate on the match, but we can’t use that as an excuse for losing, said goalie Oliver Reck of Schalke, whose management said it would have preferred to postpone the match. UEFA, Europe’s soccer governing body, ordered the Champions League matches to be played despite the events in the United States. German TV showed the match live, but without commentary, because of the attacks. Schalke and Borussia Dortmund both complained yesterday about playing Champions League matches following the stunning events at New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. UEFA finally agreed to postpone yesterday’s matches, including Olympiakos’s match against Manchester United, drawing criticism that it had reacted too late. Schalke officials, seeking postponement, called the office of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Germany’s Interior Ministry for help in delaying the match. We did not get the answer we wanted, said Schalke business manager Peter Peters. But we do not decide world politics. Schalke players complained they could not concentrate during the game after watching the horrible pictures from New York and Washington unfold right up to the bus ride to the stadium. I just don’t understand how we can play soccer on a day like this, said Schalke goalie Reck. (Combined reports)

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