Greece 2-1 Luxembourg: Greeks Win To Book Spot In Play-offs
Greece did their part by beating Luxembourg in Athens, but the result is only good enough for a spot in the play-offs following Switzerland’s draw against Israel.
With no control over their destiny, Greece did their best to set themselves up to take pole position in Group Two with a 2-1 victory over Luxembourg at the OAKA Spyros Louis Stadium in Athens. Goals from Vasilis Torosidis and Theofanis Gekas ultimately outweighed an own goal by Avraam Papadopoulos to give the Greeks three points and second spot in the group, which qualifies Greece for next month’s play-offs for Europe’s final four berths at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
With a starting formation featuring seven different faces from the one that featured in the 5-2 victory over Latvia on Saturday, Greece’s starters were surprisingly on the back-foot early on as Luxembourg looked to spring a surprise in the Greek capital. It was a lack of cohesion that kept the Greeks from creating anything offensively, and Luxembourg looked to take advantage; however, the Greek defence continued to hold its nerve to assure of no early surprises.
For the Greeks, debutant Giorgos Fotakis looked to be his side’s only threat early on. The PAOK midfielder received the nod for his first start with the senior squad, and he nearly marked his debut with a goal when he shot just wide of Jonathan Joubert’s goal on 20 minutes. Luxembourg came much closer five minutes later as Joel Kitenge avoided his marker before firing a hard shot that was just tipped over the bar for a corner by Greece ‘keeper Michalis Sifakis.
Sparking a sense of worry in the Greek camp, Kitenge’s effort looked to have kick-started Greece’s attack as on 30 minutes the home side found a breakthrough. Again Fotakis’ initiative in attack was rewarded with a corner for the Greeks, but it was Vasilis Torosidis who headed home Giorgos Karagounis’ corner-kick on 30 minutes.
Celebrations were still on-going when Greece tallied for a second time. Karagounis again provided pin-point service into the box, but this time it was Theofanis Gekas who slotted a header just inside Joubert’s left post to double Greece’s lead in the space of three minutes. Fotakis, still searching for his first international marker, had another chance to open his tally for the Blue-Whites just before the interval.
A loose ball rolled across the edge of the Luxembourg box, and with a one-time effort Fotakis just missed as his shot swerved wide of the Luxembourg goal. Greece held a comfortable 2-0 cushion at the interval, but news of a stalemate between Switzerland and Israel in Basel degraded the Greek lead as still not enough for automatic qualification.
Returning for the second frame, Greece looked to further pad their 2-0 lead, but Luxembourg’s Ben Payal had other ideas as he looked to test Sifakis. The Luxembourg defender teed up a shot from long-distance, but could only watch the effort soar wide of the goal.
Dimitris Salpingidis got the Greece attack going again on 54 minutes. Racing down the left flank, the Panathinaikos attacker cut into the Luxembourg box but an awkward angle kept him from testing Joubert. With the evening already spelling trouble for Luxembourg, the visitors were in further hot water when Payal when shown his second yellow of the night for a mistimed tackle on Salpingidis.
Greece immediately looked to take advantage and the OAKA crowd thought they had done so after Evangelos Moras capped a crafty passing-play between himself and Salpingidis with a goal, only to have the tally overruled by the linesman on suspicion of offside.
Salpingidis was ruled onside when he raced in alone on Joubert, but after he rounded the Luxembourg shot-stopper he only managed to ring his effort off the near post before trickling along the goal-line and out of bounds.
The hunt for a third goal resumed, and after playing provider for the first two goals, Karagounis looked to etch his name on the scorer’s sheet but his 78th minute free-kick was pushed away for a corner. The ensuing corner sprung another chance for Salpingidis as the Greeks worked the ball into box, but again the Panathinaikos was denied as Joubert reacted swiftly to save the grounded effort.
After notching his tenth goal of the campaign in the first half, Gekas came close to grabbing another when Karagounis found the former Bundesliga scoring leader inside the Luxembourg box, but a play-on header was easy work for Joubert. While Greece were unable to catch a break in their pursuit of a third goal, Luxembourg were handed a gift by Avraam Papadopoulos as the Olympiacos defender tapped what seemed to be harmless cross past Sifakis and into his own goal.
Spurred to search for a leveller, Luxembourg let their physical play get the better of them as rash tackles all over the pitch infuriated Rehhagel on the Greek bench. The German bench-boss, however, will feel partly guilty as Greece’s 2-1 win over Luxembourg proved to only be enough for a spot in the play-offs after Switzerland’s 0-0 draw with Israel.
The Greeks now await Friday’s release of this month’s FIFA World Rankings, which will decide if they are among the seeded teams in next Monday’s draw for the play-offs.