Olympiakos manages draw

A fine performance by Olympiakos goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis yesterday denied Real Madrid the win that would have effectively put them through to the knockout stage of this season’s Champions League. The 36-year-old produced three top-class saves to thwart Robinho and Wesley Sneijder twice to hold Real to a 0-0 draw. Real also struck the woodwork twice with Mahamadou Diarra hitting the post and Ruud van Nistelrooy the bar. Real still tops Group C with eight points while Olympiakos, which now has five points along with Lazio, also retains realistic hopes of reaching the next phase. The top two advance. «From now on we will start calculating. This point is very important for our future in the group. The remaining two encounters are very important,» said Olympiakos coach Takis Lemonis, whose team is hosted by Lazio in the next round. «I am happy with the way we got a point in spite of all the injuries and suspensions.» Olympiakos general manager Petros Kokkalis told reporters, «We deserved a better result in Madrid and they deserved a better result here.» In spite of the lack of goals, there was plenty of excitement as both teams adopted the same cavalier spirit that lit up Real’s 4-2 win in the corresponding game in Madrid. Real dominated the opening 45 minutes. Robinho, who scored twice in Madrid, had the first chance in the 14th minute when he got behind the defense. Rather than square the ball to van Nistelrooy, however, he took a shot himself, bringing a good save out of Nikopolidis. Four minutes later the Greece goalkeeper stuck out a leg to deny Sneijder, then Diarra’s flick from a corner hit the post and van Nistelrooy’s lob over Nikopolidis came back off the bar. Nikopolidis had to react sharply again in the second half to deny Sneijder a second time while Lomana LuaLua went close twice at the other end. Tonight, three of Greece’s five UEFA Cup group-stage qualifiers play their second-round matches. Larissa, a 3-1 loser at Everton in its opening game, hosts Zenit in a Group A game. Panathinaikos, which began its quest with a 3-0 win in Athens against Aberdeen, is greeted by Copenhagen in Group B. Aris, in Group F, plays its first game at home against Red Star Belgrade. The encounter pits Aris coach Dusan Bajevic against his previous club. (Reuters, Kathimerini)