SPORTS

Champions League losers now set for consolation UEFA Cup competition

Ousted from the Champions League last week and now continuing European competition in the less prestigious UEFA Cup, Olympiakos and Panathinaikos were yesterday drawn to play against French club Sochaux and Spain’s Sevilla respectively. The two Greek clubs were given consolatory berths in the UEFA Cup’s draw for the last 32 after ending third in their Champions League first-phase groups. Should Olympiakos overcome Sochaux and advance to the next round of home-and-away competition, it will meet either Newcastle or Dutch club Heerenveen in the last 16. If it gets past Sevilla, Panathinaikos will then face either Parma or Stuttgart. Against Sevilla, Panathinaikos plays its first-leg match at home on February 16. Olympiakos was also drawn to play its first of two games against Sochaux at home, a day later. Both return legs have been scheduled for a week later, on February 24. «It’s a good draw. It depends on us,» said Olympiakos coach Dusan Bajevic. Commenting on his team’s draw, Panathinaikos coach Zdenek Scasny noted: «The games against Sevilla are still a long way away. We will confront a team that competes in very advanced domestic competition.» Three other Greek clubs, AEK, Panionios and Aegaleo, competed in the UEFA Cup’s previous first phase of group play but were all eliminated. PAOK took part in preliminary qualifiers but failed to make it to group play. Having accumulated a considerable number of points from sturdy performances, both Olympiakos and Panathinaikos appeared set to advance to the Champions League’s next phase. But both were bundled out. The suspense was greater for Olympiakos. The club went into its final game as its group’s front runner, but plunged to third following a 3-1 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield. Olympiakos, Liverpool and Monaco ended up locked on 10 points apiece after six games. But the Greek side missed out on one of two berths because of an inferior head-to-head record against Liverpool.