FC København will warm themselves with thoughts of the UEFA Champions League knockout stage this winter after signing off for the year with a win against Panathinaikos FC that confirmed second spot in Group D.
Ståle Solbakken's charges knew victory would enshrine them as the first Danish club to reach the last 16 in the UEFA Champions League era and they got off the mark when Martin Vingaard finished from outside the area in the 26th minute. Certain of finishing bottom of the section, the visitors responded with a couple of dangerous moments, but Jesper Grønkjær eased FCK nerves with a 50th-minute penalty before a Djibril Cissé own goal rounded off a memorable night, Cédric Kanté's late consolation notwithstanding.
The home side received colourful encouragement from the Parken Stadion faithful as the teams filed out and they tried to respond in kind by setting a frenetic early tempo, but it was a rhythm they struggled to maintain after Vingaard had screwed wide in the first minute. Passes began to slip astray from both sets of players and whenever the Danish champions did manage to advance, the Panathinaikos defence posed a sturdy obstacle.
As a remedy, København opted to try their luck from distance, and with their first shot on target they went ahead, Vingaard half-volleying into the far corner from 20 metres after being found by Cristián Bolaños on the right. Soon afterwards, Claudemir drew a leaping save from Alexandros Tzorvas with an even more audacious effort, and from the subsequent corner Grønkjær headed marginally wide.
Those misses were almost made to look costly as the half came to a close with Johan Wiland rushing to the edge of his area, failing to clear and needing to stretch out an arm to deny Stergos Marinos. The København goalkeeper was then called immediately into action as play resumed, jumping forward to thwart substitute Sebastian Leto, so there was palpable relief around the ground when Grønkjær buried from the spot after being fouled by Nikos Spyropoulos.
Despite their cushion, the home side showed no inclination to sit back and ought to have scored again when Dame N'Doye rounded Tzorvas and rolled the ball against a post. A third goal nonetheless proved forthcoming as Cissé nodded into his own net from a Vingaard corner, and Kanté's last-gasp header did little to quell the building euphoria in the stands.
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