Greece braves storm for win

The heavens opened up on Saturday night and rained down three points on Greece’s soccer team in its Euro 2008 qualification campaign as a spectacular first-half volley from midfielder Costas Katsouranis was enough to beat Norway. A torrential downpour delayed the kickoff at the Karaiskaki Stadium, in Neo Faliron, for almost an hour as match officials debated whether the game should go ahead. The heavy rain seemed to have a cathartic effect on Greece, washing away the negative memories of recent disappointing performances and coach Otto Rehhagel’s clash with sports journalists over his team selection. With an attacking 4-3-3 formation spearheaded by AEK’s Nikos Liberopoulos, Greece pressured Norway in the early stages. Right-back Giourkas Seitaridis had a narrow miss with a shot and Liberopoulos saw a header go wide early on but goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis had to show agility in the 14th minute to tip over a volley from Frederik Stromstad to keep the score level. Greece’s breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Liberopoulos knocked down a free kick from Benfica midfielder Giorgos Karagounis which was volleyed in by his clubmate Katsouranis. Norway failed to respond in the first half but Greece came under considerable pressure after the break. Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had a good chance to level the score in the 58th minute but miskicked a cross. «We forgot in the second half that in these types of conditions you have to play good soccer and pass the ball well,» said Rehhagel. Norway did not fare much better and its best opportunities came from corners and long throws as the Greek defenders struggled to compete with the tall Norwegians. Second-half substitute Yiannis Amanatidis almost sealed the game for Greece when he flicked a cross against the post in the second minute of injury time. By then, though, Greece had weathered the best that Norway could muster.