Second-half goals from Dudu and substitute Kostas Mitroglou earned Olympiacos FC a 2-0 win at FC Sheriff and put them in firm command of their UEFA Champions League play-off round tie.
Dudu broke the deadlock with a blistering strike after an even first half where the hosts produced many of the best moments. However, after the Brazilian struck within a minute of the restart, Olympiacos began to dictate proceedings and Mitroglou's late effort confirmed them as worthy winners ahead of next week's decider in Greece.
Olympiacos coach Temuri Ketsbaia had said on the eve of the tie that his team could not afford to lose "lose like last year" when the Greek champions missed out on the group stage to Ketsbaia's then side, Anorthosis Famagusta FC. Yet it was Sheriff who were marginally the better side in a cagey opening, though they only had two long-range shots from Amath Diedhiou to show for their early endeavour. The visitors gradually began to flex their muscles and after Enzo Maresca saw a drive blocked in the 24th minute, Diogo lost his marker only to head wide.
Olympiacos's growing threat did not dissuade Sheriff. They continued to make energetic bursts forward epitomised by their athletic right-back, Benjamin Balima. He had already cut inside once to crash in a wayward shot before he launched another dynamic foray into the visitors' half, Diedhiou just unable to turn in his dangerous cross from close range. At this stage the main threat from Ketsbaia's side was from set-pieces; Avraam Papadopoulos drove in a shot from a half-cleared corner, before another dead-ball situation led to the same player heading against the post.
With nothing to choose between the sides going into the break, it looked as if a moment of magic would be needed to separate them and a minute into the second half, Dudu produced it. The Brazilian playmaker picked up a loose ball in the middle of the pitch and unleashed a fierce, swerving effort which wrong-footed Namaşco. Back came Sheriff, with Constantin Arbănaş sending a shot just over almost straight away yet Olympiacos soon had them on the back foot again. Luciano Galletti hit the post from a free-kick, Dudu was foiled by a sprawling Namaşco and then substitute Leonardo dragged a shot across goal. However, another replacement – Mitroglou – was not so profligate, breaking clear with nine minutes remaining and after holding off a couple of challenges, finishing into the bottom corner. Aleksandr Erokhin missed a late chance for Sheriff, but they now face a huge task to revive their hopes of becoming the first Moldovan team to play group-stage football.
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.