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Leverkusen avoid Greek tragedy

Published: Tuesday 29 October 2002, 22.00CET
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-0 Olympiakos Piraeus FC Germans secure qualification in style.
Published: Tuesday 29 October 2002, 22.00CET

Leverkusen avoid Greek tragedy

Bayer 04 Leverkusen 2-0 Olympiakos Piraeus FC Germans secure qualification in style.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen secured qualification from Group F of the UEFA Champions League after a hard-fought win over Olympiakos Piraeus FC at the BayArena stadium.

Sweet revenge
A first-half strike from Brazilian defender Juan and a last-minute penalty from Bernd Schneider gave Leverkusen victory and sweet revenge for their 6-2 mauling against the Greek side on Matchday One. That victory seemed a distant memory for Olympiakos who lacked any attacking ideas, resorting instead to a series of fouls whenever the home side threatened.

Juan on target
Leverkusen dominated play from the beginning and with Olympiakos playing a lone striker in Lampros Choutos, the German side were soon encamped in the opposition half. The opening exchanges resulted in a succession of free-kicks as Olympiakos looked to take the sting out of the Leverkusen attack. Playmaker Yildiray Bastürk was given a particularly hard time and the Turkish international's frusrations boiled over in the eleventh minute when he went into the referee's book for a foul on Stylianos Giannakopoulos.

Dipping shot
However, Leverkusen's forward thrusts were rewarded on 14 minutes when Brazilian defender Juan unleashed a dipping shot from 20 metres that seemed to take a slight deflection beyond the stranded Dimitrios Eleftheropoulos in the Olympiakos goal.

Greek attack
The goal forced Olympiakos to come out of their defensive shell and wing-back Stylianos Venetidis managed to whip in a low cross which Juan did well to clear ahead of Giannakopoulos. The resulting corner saw defender Paraskevas Antzas loop a header just over goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt's crossbar.

Penalty appeal
There was then controversy in the 36th minute when an astute Oliver Neuville through-ball sent Hanno Balitsch free but the midfield player seemed to be dragged down in the area although much to the disbelief of Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller the referee pointed for a corner and not a spot kick. Balitsch was almost rewarded from the set-piece but from a standing position he put his header wide of the post from five metres.

Physical approach
Olympiakos caretaker coach Yiannis Kollias changed his formation to a 4-4-2 at the start of the second period but this did little to curtail his side's physical approach and it was not long before Leverkusen were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. However, Schneider's stinging effort was more of a threat to Giannakopoulos' face than the goal.

Renewed vigour
The second half was following a similar pattern to the first until the busy Bastürk finally escaped a series of tackles. His cut-back cross from the by-line found Dimitar Berbatov but the striker's curling shot clipped the crossbar and the arriving Marko Babic drove over. The opening gave Leverkusen renewed vigour and on 61 minutes Bastürk saw a stunning volley parried away by Eleftheropoulos. Substitute Jan Šimák then went close with a fierce effort and the marauding Lucio saw a shot flash wide on 70 minutes.

Last-minute penalty
It looked as if one goal would be enough for the German side but a desperate Olympiakos clearance on the stroke of full time was duly returned into their penalty area and, as Berbatov and Edu Dracena stretched for a low cross, the referee adjudged the defender to have fouled and Schneider sent Eleftheropoulos the wrong way to put the result beyond doubt.

Last updated: 30/10/02 6.45CET

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