Olympiakos tries hard, fails to impress

oals from Laurent Blanc, Juan Sebastian Veron and Paul Scholes sealed Manchester United’s place in the next round of the Champions League, with a 3-2 win over Olympiakos Piraeus Wednesday night. The runaway Group F leaders have a perfect 12 points from four games. Bayer Leverkusen beat Maccabi Haifa 2-1 in the other match of the group, to move to second place with six points. Olympiakos and Maccabi share last place with three points each. Manchester, which comfortably dominated most of the game, recovered from a late surge by Olympiakos, giving coach Sir Alex Ferguson hope for his club’s fortunes in Europe. «A number of teams could be winners, hopefully Manchester United,» Ferguson said after the match. He described Wednesday’s clash as a «crazy game,» while adding that many players would be rested from United’s next clash, against Maccabi at the Israeli’s temporary «home ground» in Cyprus, for security reasons. «It’s good that we’re already through because we can change some players for the next game. We’ll do it next Tuesday,» Ferguson said. Yiannis Kollias appeared disappointed with his debut as caretaker coach for Olympiakos. «It’s unforgivable to come back from 2-0 down and then lose the game.» The visitors stunned the Greeks with a dazzling start and pinned Olympiakos in their area with aggressive play, with the midfield pressing and fast counter-attacks that troubled the hosts’ defense. Manchester took the lead with Blanc in the 20th minute when the unmarked Frenchman headed in a corner kick from Ryan Giggs. One minute before the end of the period the hosts came close to an equalizer when a shot by Predrag Djordjevic from inside the box was deflected by Mikael Silvestre. Back from the lockers, Manchester made it 2-0 with a shot by Veron from the edge of the area in the 53rd. Substitute Lambros Houtos narrowed the gap in the 70th minute, roared on by 15,000 fans at Rizoupolis Stadium. Djordjevic leveled four minutes later after twisting past several defenders, and gave the hosts a brief hope of victory. But Scholes ended the late Greek revival in the 83rd after goalie Dimitris Eleftheropoulos failed to stop his shot from the edge of the box. Bayer Leverkusen’s coach Klaus Toppmoeller yesterday said he was eager for his side’s next game against Olympiakos, in Germany next Tuesday, following the runner-up’s 6-2 drubbing in the first clash. «I promise that our performance will be better against the Greeks,» Toppmoeller said. «Besides, we have an account to settle.» (AP/Kathimerini)