Dimitris Salpingidis struck exactly on the hour to confirm PAOK FC's place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32, with defeat condemning NK Dinamo Zagreb to Group D oblivion.
The 29-year-old had scarcely made his presence felt before he scampered through to fire a low shot past Ivan Kelava on the break, as Dinamo once more missed a chance to book themselves a place in the spring stage of a UEFA club competition. The Croatian champions last survived a European winter in the 1969/70 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
That long run of bad luck might have explained Dinamo's early nerves; disaster almost struck as a clearance was deflected goal-ward by Stefanos Anthanasiadis, but Kelava saved. Knowing a draw would see them through, PAOK felt no compulsion to push forward, and Dinamo edgily took the initiative, Arijan Ademi and Milan Badelj trying their luck.
Ivan Tomečak then had his head in his hands, failing to find the target after PAOK goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias punched a swirling cross from the left to his feet. More frustration followed: Fatos Bećiraj flicked a corner on to Tomečak but his close-range shot cannoned into Pablo Contreras on the goal line, while with half-time approaching, Sammir's free-kick curled against the outside of Chalkias's right-hand post.
With PAOK continuing to hold firm after the break, Vahid Halilhodžić sent on Ante Rukavina as an extra striker, but his side almost immediately went behind to the hitherto anonymous Salpingidis.
The ball rarely left the PAOK half thereafter, with Miroslav Slepička and Andrej Kramarić added to Dinamo's striking armoury, but the closest the game came to seeing another goal was when Athanasiadis sliced wide a gift of a chance to kill off the game 20 minutes from the end.
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