SPORTS

Away victory proves elusive

Olympiakos, winner of nine of Greece’s past 10 domestic titles, failed to break its winless away record in the Champions League Wednesday night, on its 28th attempt, with a 2-2 draw against Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. Despite failing to dominate play in a lively encounter, Olympiakos went ahead twice against the run of play, but squandered its lead each time. Nery Castillo evaded three Ukrainian players and fed the ball through for striker Michalis Constantinou to fire home the game’s opening goal from close range in the 24th minute. But Shakhtar’s faith remained unperturbed by the shock goal. The home side leveled nine minutes later. After Mariusz Lewandowski had hit the crossbar and Anatoliy Tymoschuk forced another smart save from the busy Nikopolidis, a teasing long-range free kick from Matuzalem eluded everyone and ended up in the bottom corner for the equalizer. Olympiakos coach Trond Sollied made one change at half time, replacing central defender Giorgos Anatolakis with Christos Patsatzoglou. But it failed to stop the Ukrainian team’s forward drive. Even so, the Ukrainians found themselves behind again in the 68th minute when Castillo found the target. Bohdan Shust palmed a powerful drive from Milos Maric into the path of Castillo, who put the ball away. The home team protested strongly, believing the Olympiakos striker had used his arm to sneak the ball into the net. But the home team’s second equalizer came just two minutes later when Romanian striker Ciprian Marica fired on target for the hosts. Shakhtar dominated from then on but could not snatch the winner against a team who failed to muster a win in 28 Champions League away games. Both sides lost their opening games two weeks ago and already look up against it in the race to qualify. Valencia tops Group D with six points from the two games after beating AS Roma 2-1, also on Wednesday night. In his post-match comments, Olympiakos coach Sollied said his side remained alive in the battle for the group’s second spot, which would grant Olympiakos a berth for the competition’s next round. Olympiakos was on the back foot for the game’s majority on Wednesday night. Goalkeeper Nikopolidis, one of Greece’s heroes at Euro 20004, was a major factor in the visiting side’s survival for a share of the points. In other European club-level action played last night, struggling and temporarily coachless Xanthi, a 4-3 loser at home against Dinamo Bucharest a fortnight ago, suffered a heavy 4-1 loss in the return leg for a first-round exit from the UEFA Cup with an 8-4 aggregate score. Later last night, Atromitos was due to meet Seville in Spain, needing to convert a 2-1 home loss in the first leg. Panathinaikos traveled to Ukraine with just a 1-1 draw against Metalurh Zaporizhya in the first leg. Cypriot club Ethnikos Achnas’s European aspirations ended with a 3-1 loss against Lens last night following a scoreless draw at home in the first leg. (Reuters, Kathimerini)