SPORTS

Olympiakos pushes Real hard before going down 2-1

Real Madrid has never been beaten in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium by a Greek team and it kept the streak alive with a 2-1 win over Olympiakos in the Champions League Group F encounter late on Wednesday. The victory partially banished the memories of Real crashing 3-0 at Lyon two weeks ago and there were double celebrations as club captain Raul reached his 50th goal in European competition. However, the Spanish left it late to secure all three points, the winner from second-half substitute Robert Soldado, who usually plays for Real’s reserve team, coming four minutes from time. «In the first half everything went fine but we didn’t build up enough of an advantage to allow us to relax for the rest of the game,» reflected Real coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo. «We should have finished them off in the first half and this is what I said in the dressing room in the break. We can’t afford to have five or six chances and only score once. When they scored and made it 1-1, we suffered. Time seemed to pass very slowly. In the end we made hard work of winning but I think we deserved the victory.» It was Soldado’s first goal in Europe’s top club competition. Raul had earlier notched up his 50th strike in the competition, edging past legendary player Alfredo di Stefano, who scored 49 times in the old European Cup between 1955 and 1964. Raul’s hallmark effort came after just nine minutes, a glancing header from a perfect David Beckham cross which left Olympiakos keeper Antonis Nikopolidis rooted to the spot. The Bernabeu was silenced when Pantelis Kafes equalized barely two minutes after the break with a right-foot thunderbolt from 25 meters, which squeezed between Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas and his left post. The Greeks’ goal seemed to deflate Real as well as their fans and they only turned up the pressure again in the final 15 minutes, almost being left to regret their first-half misses until Soldado struck with his head. Beckham again sent a long pass into the area and Soldado’s first header was parried away by Nikopolidis but his double-fisted punch sent the ball straight back to Soldado and the 20-year-old striker didn’t miss a second time. The gloss of Real’s win was slightly dulled by Sergio Ramos getting a red card in injury time. The central defender was hacked down by Yiannis Okkas but retaliated although the Olympiakos striker made a meal of the slight contact. «I don’t think anybody believed we were going to win at the Bernabeu but the team played well and nearly pulled off a good result,» said Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied. «Our tactic was very simple. We wanted to be so close on them that we should deny crosses from both sides. We succeeded with Roberto Carlos but not with Beckham,» he added. In the other Group F match, Brazilian defender Cris headed the only goal to earn group leaders Olympique Lyon a 1-0 away win over Rosenborg Trondheim. Lyon has a maximum six points from two games. Rosenborg and Real Madrid are on three points and Olympiakos has yet to earn a point. (AFP, Reuters)