Olympiakos Piraeus FC coach Panagiotis Lemonis urged his team's players and supporters not to get carried away with their extraordinary 6-2 triumph over 2001 UEFA Champions League finalists Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
'A good start'
While clearly delighted with his team's rousing display, Lemonis insisted that his players guard against complacency in later games. "It was definitely a good start for us in Europe this season. We knew that this match was crucial and I know that our fans must be very excited. But it is important that we stay focused and keep our feet on the ground."
Lemonis went on to praise their opponents, saying; "The 6-2 scoreline does not reflect the potential of the two teams. We knew Leverkusen would be very tired and that they would try to hit us on the counterattack, so we made sure to guard against this."
Lemonis also singled out goalkeeper Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos for praise, the Olympiakos No1 fumbled a cross to hand Leverkusen a lead against the run of play, but then redeemed himself with a crucial save from Yildiray Bastürk when the score was 1-0 to the away team. "The crucial point was the save Eleftheropoulos made from Bastürk when the score was 1-0," confirmed Lemonis.
The coach was keen to emphasise that moment as a turning point in the game. "From that point on, we woke up and managed to stay focussed,2 he said. "We cannot be overexcited after this win, nor should we be overly disappointed after any future loss."
'A fantastic save'
Lemonis's praise for his goalkeeper was echoed by substitute Alexios Alexandris, who said, "I want to say 'thank you' to Eleftheropoulos, who managed to overcome his mistake for the first goal and produced a fantastic save to prevent Leverkusen doubling their lead. If they had scored a second goal then, it is possible that we would be in the position they are in now."
Not surprisingly, Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller was critical of his team's display. "We should have drawn," he said. "We started well and took the lead, but after Bastürk's miss and then the equaliser, we collapsed. I don't know why but we lost our strength and our fighting spirt."
Toppmöller was quick to point out that Leverkusen were defeated by a very good side. "Giannakopoulos and Djordjevic were too strong for us tonight, and caused us many problems. I hope we can lift our morale before our next 1. Bundesliga game, and I also hope our injured players return soon. For our recent games, we have been unable to pick our first-choice defence. I also know that our players who played in the FIFA World Cup are not in the best physical shape right now."
'Too early to tell'
However, the Leverkusen coach refused to be too dispirited, pointing out that there is still a long way to go in this competition. "It is too soon to say who might qualify from this group," he said.
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