Olympiacos CFP and S.S. Lazio shared the spoils in Athens after their closely contested Group C opener at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium ended in a 1-1 draw.
It was a tale of the two Lucianos: Argentine midfielder Luciano Galletti put Olympiacos ahead ten minutes into the second half before Luciano Zauri levelled matters with an equally slick finish with 13 minutes remaining. There was an eerily silent atmosphere in the empty stadium as Olympiacos served a one-match behind-closed-doors sanction as punishment for crowd disturbances last season. But a vociferous gathering of Olympiacos fans in the parking area behind the main stand did their utmost to rally behind their team.
And it was the hosts who almost went ahead after five minutes when skipper Predrag Djordjević side-footed over from close range after a great run and cross by Vasilios Torossidis. There was danger at the other when Lazio won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area but Cristián Ledesma's curling effort was tipped away by Antonis Nikopolidis. Lomana LuaLua's trickery and athleticism was causing problems for Lazio and on 14 minutes a neat dribble took him past two defenders on the edge of the area, but his deflected shot fell kindly for Lazio keeper Marco Ballotta, who became the oldest player to compete in the UEFA Champions League group stage at the age of 43 years and 168 days.
Neither goalkeeper was extended in a tentative opening 45 minutes. The visitors' best chance came just after the half-hour and only a last-ditch tackle by Michał Żewłakow blocked Stefano Mauri's goalbound shot as the Olympiacos back-line were caught napping. The hosts finished the half strongly, however, as Galletti broke clear down the right channel and drew an excellent save from Ballotta at his near post.
A strong start to the second half from Olympiacos saw defender Paraskevas Antzas's point-blank header saved by Ballotta six minutes in, before the hosts broke the deadlock in the 55th minute. A slick passing move involving Djordjević and LuaLua sprung the Lazio offside trap and sent Galletti galloping through on goal. The Argentine forward neatly rounded Ballotta before slotting in a right-footed shot. With Lazio on the backfoot, Galletti won two corners in the space on a minute just after the hour mark, before Djordjević fired a long-range effort just over. Aside from a couple of dangerous crosses, Lazio struggled to create openings at the other end.
Delio Rossi sent on Simone Del Nero with 20 minutes remaining in an attempt to give his side more attacking impetus and the striker unsettled Olympiacos with his direct running. But it was a lapse in concentration that cost the hosts dear on 77 minutes. There looked little danger when Pandev prodded a ball down the left, but Christos Patsatzoglou failed to reach it and the ball fell to Zauri, who beat Nikopolidis with a low shot. Pandev was denied brilliantly by Nikopolidis with four minutes left as Lazio ended the match strongly.
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