SPORTS

Diving header makes it three out of three for jubilant Panathinaikos

A diving header from Giorgos Karagounis gave Panathinaikos a deserved 1-0 victory over Arsenal late on Wednesday as the Group C leaders made it three wins out of three in the Champions League. Karagounis stooped to nod home Jan Michaelsen’s cross from the right in the 25th minute, as Arsenal’s makeshift defense was given a torrid opening at 45 minutes into the game by the Greek side. A rash of second-half substitutions by Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gave more urgency to what had been a wholly ineffective attack from the English premier league club. But these failed to keep Arsenal from suffering the second defeat in their campaign, after opening with a 1-0 away loss to Real Mallorca before last week’s 3-2 home win over Schalke 04. Panathinaikos, who beat both Mallorca and Schalke 2-0 in their earlier games, fully earned their victory for having outclassed the North London club in the first half and then weathering the storm in the second. With nine points, the Greeks have firmly staked their claim to a place in the second phase of the competition, while Arsenal must now make maximum use of its fixtures at Highbury. Portuguese playmaker Paulo Sousa, a Champions League winner with both Juventus and Borussia Dortmund, and Angelos Basinas were the architects of Panathinaikos’s impressive first half. Targeting Goran Vlaovic and Emmanuel Olisadebe in front, they exposed the weaknesses of an Arsenal back four that had skipper Tony Adams and Sol Campbell both out with injuries, and youngster Matthew Upson drafted in from the reserves. Their start was none too convincing as Arsenal nearly went a goal down after 11 minutes when Vlaovic’s bullet header from a Karagounis corner was nodded off the line by Ashley Cole, with keeper David Seaman completely beaten. At the other end, French internationals Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord failed to make any impression on a well-organized Panathinaikos defense, despite plenty of enthusiastic running by Fredrik Ljungberg. It was 23 minutes before the Gunners fired their first shot in anger, although Ljungberg’s effort sliced well wide of the right-hand post. But just as Wenger’s side showed signs of finding its rhythm, Karagounis delivered his diving header which bounced once as it flew past Seaman and into the far corner. Arsenal responded by attacking with more conviction, though no greater success, and were very nearly caught out on the break in the 38th minute. Olisadebe should have made it 2-0 when he nudged the ball round Seaman, but he panicked and scuffed his shot wide. Wenger reshuffled his pack in search of second-half goals, swapping Giovanni van Bronckhorst for Ray Parlour and then with a double-substitution of strikers Nwankwo Kanu and Francis Jeffers taking over from Wiltord and Ljungberg. But Jeffers saw one shot blocked and misdirected a header in Arsenal’s best two chances.(Reuters)