Panathinaikos exits Champions League despite sturdy results

Two goals from German midfielder Markus Munch led Panathinaikos to a 4-1 win over PSV Eindhoven Tuesday night, but it was not enough to see the Greek side through to the knockout stage of the Champions League. Arsenal’s win over Rosenborg meant the English champions finished top of Group E with PSV, who had already qualified, taking second place. Panathinaikos finished third to go into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup. Munch got his first goal from the penalty spot just before halftime after Dimitris Papadopoulos had opened the scoring for Panathinaikos only for Da Marcus Beasley to level for PSV. Munch grabbed his second in the 58th minute after beating two defenders and firing in off the post. Mark Van Bommel missed a penalty for PSV 10 minutes later and Lucian Sanmartean wrapped up the win for Panathinaikos nine minutes from time. It was the perfect way for the Greek side to end an era of Champions League football at their Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium. Their first match there, 44 years ago to the day, was a 0-0 draw with Spartak Hradec Kralove from the old Czechoslovakia in the European Cup but UEFA now insists they no longer use the dilapidated stadium for Champions League games. «I am very happy to win the last game at the stadium,» said midfielder Pantelis Konstantinidis. «It was a bittersweet victory over a very good team that had already qualified. Our mistake was that we lost out on qualification at Rosenborg when we conceded a second goal.» Last month Panathinaikos twice lost the lead as they drew 2-2 at Rosenborg, whose second goal came 14 minutes from time. Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny also referred to the end of European soccer at the stadium. «The team owed that kind of performance to the fans, to the club and to the ground. It has had a long and great European history.» PSV coach Guus Hiddink blamed the referee for disallowing a «goal» from Park Ji-sung for offside. «It was wrongly disallowed,» he said before picking up on his team’s defensive frailties. We conceded some soft goals which derived from a lack of communication between our defenders. Anyway, this should be a good lesson for us that we should put up a fight even when the match is not important. If the penalty had gone in the match would have taken a different turn. The defeat is heavy but it doesn’t affect our self-confidence. We must learn from our mistakes.» (Reuters)