Panathinaikos struggles, loses 3-1 against determined Wisla

Panathinaikos and Everton have followed opposite paths in European competition ever since they met in 1970-71 for the quarterfinals of what was then the European Champions Cup. In that clash, Panathinaikos drew 1-1 at Everton, with the home team managing a last-minute equalizer, and drew again 0-0 at home to secure a place in the semifinals. Back then, Everton had complained of unsporting tactics, such as Panathinaikos fans honking all night outside the hotel where the team stayed, depriving the players of sleep the night before the second leg. While Panathinaikos went on to reach the 1971 final and two semifinals, in 1985 and 1996, Everton did not play again in the Champions Cup or its successor, the Champions League, until this year. Champions in 1985 and 1987, Everton were denied the chance to play in the Champions Cup due to the ban on English clubs after the notorious Juventus-Liverpool final at Brussels’s Heysel stadium, where Liverpool hooligans caused the deaths of 39 Italian supporters. Liverpool had advanced to that final by eliminating Panathinaikos. Both Everton and Panathinaikos played Champions League qualifying games on Tuesday night. Both lost their first-leg encounters and saw their chances to make the lucrative group stage diminished. Panathinaikos got off to a flying start at Wisla Krakow with a fourth-minute goal by Nigeria-born Polish international striker Emmanuel Olisadebe. However, betrayed by their porous defense, they ended up losing 3-1 after Pawel Brozyk, Kalu Uche and Tomasz Frankowski replied for the impressive hosts. Panathinaikos coach Alberto Malesani admitted after the game that his players were not in top form for their first official match of the season, especially his midfielders, who often left the defense exposed. All three Wisla goals were the results of defensive mistakes. Panathinaikos might have stood a better chance had it played with a more defensive formation instead of using three strikers. Tickets were like gold dust for Everton’s return to the continent’s premier competition after 34 years and their first European match since 1995. However, the occasion ended in anti-climax for the locals with a 2-1 home defeat by Villarreal. Everton were surprise fourth-placed finishers in the Premier League but found their spirited efforts not enough against a classy Villarreal side making their first appearance in the competition after finishing behind Real Madrid and Barcelona last season in Spain. Superb goals by Argentina striker Luciano Figueroa, in the 27th minute, and midfielder Josico, in the 45th, either side of a close-range effort by James Beattie put the Spanish side, formidable at home, firmly in the driving seat. A few miles east of Everton’s lair, some Manchester United fans boycotted their team’s match against Hungary’s Debrecen. A reduced crowd of 51,701 watched the game, more than 15,000 short of capacity, with many fans boycotting the match in protest at the club’s takeover by American tycoon Malcolm Glazer. This did not prevent Manchester United from easily prevailing, 3-0, over the outclassed Hungarians. Scottish champions Rangers, knocked out at this stage last season, look better positioned to go through this time after winning 2-1 in Cyprus against Anorthosis Famagusta with two goals in five minutes midway through the second half by Nacho Novo and Fernando Ricksen. (Reuters/Kathimerini)

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