Through to UEFA Cup groups

Striker Dimitris Papadopoulos’s hat trick gave Panathinaikos a 3-0 victory against 10-man Artmedia Bratislava from Slovakia last night and sent the Athens club through to the UEFA Cup’s group stage with a comfortable 5-1 aggregate score. Following a cautious start, Panathinaikos struck twice within a minute as the halftime break approached to take command in its UEFA Cup tie. Papadopoulos opened the scoring in the 44th minute from the penalty spot after Dame N’Doye was tagged and brought down by defender Peter Burak, who was shown the red card. A minute later, Papadopoulos connected delicately with a Giorgos Karagounis free kick delivered from the left flank to make it 2-0 for the home side. Papadopoulos got his hat trick from the penalty spot on 74 minutes after Anthony Seric, on the run and with just keeper Miroslav Hyll to beat inside the box, crash-landed after being challenged. Hyll was shown the yellow card after strongly protesting the referee’s decision, which appeared to be dubious. Coach Jose Peseiro made two changes to Panathinaikos’s starting lineup chosen for last weekend’s 2-0 league win at home against PAOK. The 19-year-old midfielder Elini Dimoutsos, one of his team’s leading performers last night, replaced Brazilian Marcelo Mattos and Papadopoulos, last night’s hat-trick hero, took the place of Dimitris Salpiggidis. Despite calls for a solid turnout by Peseiro and Greece international Giorgos Karagounis at a pre-match news conference, approximately 7,000 fans attended Panathinaikos’s 15,000-capacity Apostolos Nikolaidis Stadium. The game kicked off in the early evening on a workday. Tonight, Greek champions Olympiakos, off to a subdued start in domestic competition this season with five points from three league games, are hosted by Bundesliga club Werder Bremen in a Champions League Group C match. Olympiakos drew 1-1 against Lazio in its opener, at home, a fortnight ago, and Werder was defeated by Real Madrid.