News24

Panathinaikos in pole position

2009-02-26 09:00

Villarreal - Greek side Panathinaikos grabbed a rare good result on their travels to Spain on Wednesday as they held 2006 Champions League semi-finalists Villarreal to a 1-1 draw.

Greek international playmaker Giorgios Karagounis scored for the visitors - who had lost nine UEFA Cup matches in Spain in the past decade - in the second-half only for the hosts to level from the penalty spot through former Manchester United striker Giuseppe Rossi.

Villarreal were the more active side in the early stages forcing Panathinaikos Croatian 'keeper Mario Galinovic into saves from Joseba Llorente in the sixth minute and then from Rossi's freekick in the 19th minute.

Karagounis finally brought Villarreal 'keeper Diego Lopez into the action in the 26th minute as he got down to save from the visitor's midfield general.

The irrepressible Rossi was at it again shortly after Karagounis's effort but again was thwarted by Galinovic.

Karagounis seemed to be the most likely source for the Greeks to score a goal and it was the 31-year-old who once again tested Lopez in the 32nd minute with a free kick after Marcos Senna had been penalised.

However, the Greek side suffered a blow seven minutes from half-time when Yannis Goumas was booked meaning the 33-year-old - like Karagounis a member of the Greece side that won the Euro 2004 title - is suspended for the second leg in a fortnight's time.

Panathinaikos coach Henk Ten Cate perhaps fearing that Goumas may well pick up a red card replaced him at half-time with Brazilian defender Gabriel.

Galinovic was again the busiest of the 'keepers as twice in the opening five minutes of the half he saved from Santi Cazorla and Rossi.

However, the hosts were hit with a sucker punch as the irrepressible Karagounis was on hand to slot past Lopez for his third goal of the campaign.

This prompted Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini to throw on former France international Robert Pires and Turkish star Nihat Kahveci for the final half-hour.

Pires had an immediate impact as he was felled in the area by Polish defender Jakub Wawrzyniak and Rossi kept his nerve to convert the penalty for his third goal of the campaign.

AFP