The Greek league leaders, Panathinaikos FC, have given themselves an excellent chance of reaching the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup after winning 1-0 at the previously impregnable Das Antas stadium. Polish striker Emmanuel Olisadebe's second-half goal handed FC Porto their first home defeat of the season.
The match was predictably closely contested by two sides in unerring form domestically; Porto are 13 points clear of closest rivals SL Benfica in the Portuguese SuperLiga, Panathinaikos three in front at the Alpha Ethniki summit. The home side, however, were almost stunned in the fourth minute when striker Nikos Lyberopoulos went close. His fierce shot was parried by Porto goalkeeper Vítor Baía, who reacted to block Joonas Kolkka's follow-up.
Yet Porto soon produced the slick passing game that has served them so well in European competition this season, with Maniche and Paulo Ferreira working in tandem to engineer crosses for Brazilian striker Derlei and Portuguese international Hélder Postiga. It was Paulo Ferreira who provided the first meaningful chance for the home team, delivering a centre which Derlei headed powerfully but goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis kept out.
Nerve replaces verve
Panathinaikos have reached the last eight of the UEFA Cup by battling every step of the way, and this spirit was in evidence again as the visitors reduced Porto to just one more opportunity before the break, Capucho breaking clear to go head to head with Nikopolidis but driving into the side-netting. Porto came out for the second half determined to break the deadlock but nerve replaced their customary verve.
Deco, playing his first European match since being granted Portuguese citizenship, failed to find the decisive touch, brushing off a series of challenges to put himself in a good position only to send his low, angled shot wide in the 57th minute. Soon after, he set free César Peixoto but the forward skewed wide when his position suggested that he should perhaps have done better.
Porto were to rue the miss because three minutes later the Greek side found the winner. Olisadebe nipped in between central defenders Jorge Costa and Pedro Emanuel to head in a centre from Kolkka, who had outpaced Paulo Ferreira before crossing. Deco and Edgaras Jankauskas both went close to levelling as Porto launched a wave of attacks in the final ten minutes, but Panathiaikos held firm and breathed a sigh of relief when Hélder Postiga's effort at the death was disallowed for offside; a moment which could prove decisive.
'Courage and resilience'
The visiting coach, Sergio Markarian, complimented his players "for their courage and their resilience", adding: "I am also very happy because we defeated one of the ten best teams in Europe." His opposite number, the Porto coach José Mourinho, was not so ebullient. "It was one of those nights that we could have been playing four or five hours and we still wouldn't have got a goal," he said "Fortunately, we are only at half-time - we still have another half to play."
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