Basinas’s goal spares blushes

Dominating play throughout the game, Greece revived its Euro 2008 qualifying bid with a 1-0 win against 10-man Malta in Valletta last night, the national team’s first ever win there. With 12 points from five games, Greece moved up to equal first place with Turkey. But Turkey had yet to play its fifth round game, scheduled for later last night against Norway. The trio are expected to fight for the group’s two qualifying berths to the Euro 2008 finals in Austria and Switzerland. Angelos Basinas scored from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Vassilis Torosidis was brought down by Roderick Briffa. He was sent off for a second bookable offense. Celebrating the goal, Basinas, followed by all his teammates, ran straight to the Greek bench and swarmed around coach Otto Rehhagel as an act of solidarity following heavy criticism for players and coach since last Saturday’s 4-1 home drubbing against Turkey. Rehhagel was condemned for refusing to make changes to his squad, especially the starting lineup, which has remained largely untouched since Greece’s astonishing Euro 2004 triumph. Responding to the remarks, Rehhagel told reporters that he would go on with the players he had at his disposal because they were all he had. But last night he responded by making six changes to the Greek team that started last Saturday against Turkey. The news made headlines in local media an hour before kickoff, when the news was announced. The reshuffling included goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias in place of team captain Antonis Nikopolidis, a regular and reliable performer for Greece and his club, Olympiakos, who played an unusually poor game against Turkey last Saturday. Greece applied early pressure in search of a quick goal to relieve some of the pressure felt since the weekend defeat. After slackening slightly midway through the first half, Greece surged ahead again for the first period’s final 10 minutes of play. Greece dominated the second half but missed several good chances for a bigger win. A Costas Katsouranis header in the 80th minute came off the post. Nine minutes later, striker Nikos Lymberopoulos, who came on as a substitute in the second half, chipped just over the bar with only the goalkeeper to beat.

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