By Paris Ayiomamitis at the Piraeus stadium
A second-half goal from Predrag Djordjevic was enough to see Olympiacos CFP past RC Deportivo La Coruña as the Group A leaders moved closer to the UEFA Champions League knockout stages for the second time in their history. The result means Deportivo have failed to advance past the group stage for the first time.
Olympiacos were made to struggle by Deportivo and were frustrated by a string of missed opportunities. The Galicians, who needed three points to stay alive, finally caved in, to the delight of the capacity crowd, on 68 minutes when Djordjevic linked up with a Rivaldo pass to score.
Olympiacos, top on ten points from five games, will be sure of a place in the first knockout round if they draw their final game away to Liverpool FC, who were beaten 1-0 by AS Monaco FC in the evening's other Group A match. Deportivo, still without a goal in the competition, will finish bottom.
Olympiacos coach Dušan Bajevic opted for an attack-minded formation with Ioannis Okkas, who had recovered from a leg complaint, starting up front with Giovanni, with Brazilian compatriot Rivaldo just behind the front two.
Nery Alberto Castillo was surprisingly among the substitutes as Bajevic welcomed Djordjevic back into midfield, while the centre of defence was entrusted to Gabriel Schürrer and Georgios Anatolakis. The defence-minded Stylianos Venetidis was preferred on the left to Grigoris Georgatos in a bid to shackle Deportivo's Pedro Munitis.
While Bajevic had the luxury of choice, the options left to his Deportivo counterpart Javier Irureta were seriously compromised by injuries to strikers Walter Pandiani, Diego Tristán, defender Joan Capdevila and the suspended Jorge Andrade. Irureta turned to Albert Luque to fill the void in the lone striker position while Pablo Amo stepped in for Andrade in the centre of defence.
Olympiacos showed their attacking intent from the outset and Rivaldo unsettled the visitors' defence after two minutes when he twisted and turned in the penalty area, but lost control before he could shoot. The Greek side almost scored after eight minutes when Giovanni released Okkas, but the Cyprus striker shot straight at José Molina.
Undeterred, Olympiacos pushed forward and two minutes later Venetidis broke free on the left and turned in a ball to Rivaldo who fired narrowly wide. Okkas almost made amends on 15 minutes when his header from a Rivaldo corner was tipped over by Molina, who was there again on 20 minutes when he stopped Ieroklis Stoltidis from close range as Deportivo held on.
Olympiacos were frustrated again on the half hour when Giovanni scooped the ball into the path of Pantelis Kafes who flicked the ball over Molina, only to hit the crossbar. Deportivo's first chance came on 38 minutes when Luque burst into the Olympiacos box but his close-range shot hit Antonios Nikopolidis.
Deportivo showed more intent after the interval, but Olympiacos remained in the ascendancy. They were determined to break the deadlock and Stoltidis headed Rivaldo's cross into the grateful arms of Molina on 55 minutes. Georgios Georgiadis came on for Okkas and missed from close range on the hour, while Giovanni's powerful strike moments later was narrowly off target.
Olympiacos finally broke the deadlock on 68 minutes when Rivaldo found Djordjevic in the box and he easily beat Molina from close range. Depor pressed in an attempt to hit back, but again they came up blank and it is only Olympiacos who will have something to play for on Matchday 6.
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