Olympiakos out of the Champions League

LEVERKUSEN (Combined reports) – Bayer Leverkusen took revenge on Olympiakos yesterday with a 2-0 victory that sent the Germans into the second stage of the Champions League and eliminated their Greek opponents. Last season’s runners-up, who had started their campaign with an embarrassing 6-2 defeat to Olympiakos in Athens, moved ahead 14 minutes into their penultimate Group F match, courtesy of Juan. The Brazilian defender’s dipping effort from 20 meters out took a slight deflection and left Olympiakos goalkeeper Dimitris Eleftheropoulos no chance. The home side had wasted several chances to double their advantage when Bulgarian striker Dimitar Berbatov was fouled in the box by Brazilian midfielder Edu Drasena with a few seconds remaining. Midfielder and captain Bernd Schneider wrapped it up by converting the resulting penalty. Leverkusen stay second in the group and now have nine points from five games. Maccabi Haifa, who beat Manchester United 3-0, could also get nine points but Leverkusen will stay above them because of their better head-to-head record. Olympiakos must beat Maccabi 3-0, or by a higher score, to avoid last place in the group and book a consolation slot in the UEFA Cup. The Germans play United, who have 12 points, at Old Trafford in their last match of the opening stage on November 13 with top spot in the group up for grabs. Leverkusen, who appear to be recovering from a disastrous start to the season, had lost their first two group games but won the next three. They still look far from the form that took them to last May’s final in Glasgow, where they lost 2-1 to Real Madrid after a brave fight, but they offered their fans a convincing display on Tuesday. «We knew that we would find it hard this season to play the kind of football we displayed last season but we’re heading in the right direction,» said Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmoeller, who lost inspirational playmaker Michael Ballack to rivals Bayern Munich. Midfielder Hanno Balitsch had raced into the box in the 36th minute when he was brought down by Edu but Italian referee Alfredo Trentalange ruled the challenge was regular. Toppmoeller’s men, who are a poor 12th in the Bundesliga standings after finishing second to Borussia Dortmund last term, threatened again in the 57th minute when Berbatov rattled the crossbar from inside the area. Olympiakos concentrated on defending throughout a tense game marred by many fouls and hardly created any scoring opportunity. Olympiakos is expected to announce the hiring of a new coach, Srecjko Katanec of Slovenia, today. Caretaker coach Yiannis Kollias, 69, yesterday put the players through a full drill and a friendly. Olympiakos’s players, with the exception of French midfielder Christian Karembeu, were copiously insulted by enraged fans after Tuesday’s game. «Take off your uniforms and go, you are not worthy of wearing them,» was one of the few printable comments heard. (Reuters/Kathimerini)