Udinese stuns Panathinaikos

Udinese scored two late goals to beat Panathinaikos on a rain-soaked pitch Tuesday night and take a major step toward the knockout stage of the Champions League. Udinese needs one point to clinch second place in Group C after FC Barcelona beat Werder Bremen 3-1. The Spanish powerhouse, already qualified, leads the group with 13 points. Udinese has seven, and Panathinaikos and Bremen have four each. In the last round of games on December 7, Barcelona visits Udinese, while Bremen hosts Panathinaikos. A draw for Panathinaikos would assure the Greek club third place in Group C and a consolatory berth in the less prestigious UEFA Cup. Udinese was outplayed for most of the game, but, even so, bounced back from the apparent dead. Vincenzo Iaquinta and Vincent Candela scored for Udinese in the 80th and 83rd minutes. Panathinaikos attacked from the start, hoping to bounce back from the 5-0 thrashing at FC Barcelona in its last Champions League outing. About 35,000 supporters at the Athens Olympic stadium saw the hosts come close in the 36th when a header by Ilias Kotsios hit the crossbar. Cyprus international Costas Charalambides put Panathinaikos ahead in first-half injury time. A low cross from Sotirios Leontiou deep on the left went across the visitors’ box, passing two defenders before being slotted home by an unmarked Charalambides. As the game progressed, Panathinaikos looked content to simply retain possession in midfield and see the game through. But the Greek club paid dearly for its complacent approach. Udinese equalized in the 80th after a comedy of errors in front of the Panathinaikos goalmouth, ending with defender Elias Kotsios attempting to fire the ball away. But his clearance deflected off Iaquinta and into the net. Iaquinta scored a hat trick in the 3-0 Champions League victory against Panathinaikos in Italy. In the 83rd, Candela scored the winning goal with a ferocious – and unstoppable – shot from outside the area and into the top-right corner. Statistically, it was an unlikely goal, coming as Candela’s first in his 28th Champions League appearance. «We had a good first half but in the second we gave Udinese the initiative,» Kotsios said. «Luck turned its back on us. Udinese got two chances and turned the game around,» he added. Gabri Garcia, Ronaldinho and Henrik Larsson scored Barcelona’s three goals, while midfielder Tim Borowski converted a penalty midway through the first half for Bremen’s only goal in the Group C match at Camp Nou stadium. «We controlled the game at every moment although in the second half we were even better, trying hard and with some fine individual pieces of skill,» Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard said. Bremen lost top scorer Miroslav Klose in the 56th minute after he collided with Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez. Klose was hospitalized with a fractured facial bone and was to undergo surgery later in the evening. The Spanish champion’s victory was its seventh straight, including both the Champions League and Spanish league games. (AP, Kathimerini)

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