Olympiacos FC began life without Temuri Ketsbaia with a 1-0 victory against AZ Alkmaar in their UEFA Champions League Group H opener as new coach Zico looked on from the Georgios Karaiskakis stands.
The Greek titleholders confirmed Zico's appointment on a two-year contract before kick-off and how the match could have done with the former Brazil player's legendary flair as defences dominated. That was until the 79th minute, however, when Vassilis Torosidis rose to head in Jaouad Zairi's superb right-wing cross and ensure Olympiacos a winning return to the competition after a one-year absence.
Pounding drums, ear-splitting sirens and deafening whistles all combined to create a raucous atmosphere inside the stadium as the home crowd tried to unsettle Ronald Koeman's players. Nonetheless, after a cautious opening, it was the visitors who had the first sight of goal when Moussa Dembélé broke down the right and crossed for Maarten Martens, who contrived to bundle the ball over from two metres out. Olympiacos responded with their own raid down the right when Torosidis crossed dangerously for Diogo but the Brazilian striker was beaten to the ball by defender Niklas Moisander.
Denied the attacking talents of midfielders Enzo Maresca and Luciano Galletti through injury as well as striker Matt Derbyshire, Olympiacos were seemingly content to sit back and wait for their chance to pounce. Their right flank looked the most likely source of a goal with Leonardo prodding wide from Zairi's centre before Diogo glanced a header off target following another cross by the Moroccan. The hosts should have been ahead ten minutes after the break when the overlapping Michał Żewłakow delivered a low cross from the right which Diogo dummied cleverly, only for Dudu to fire over when well positioned near the penalty spot.
AZ responded with a forward thrust of their own but David Mendes da Silva's fierce drive flashed narrowly over the crossbar. Next to try his luck was Brett Holman, the Australian cutting inside after 72 minutes and testing the reflexes of Antonis Nikopolidis with a powerful effort from distance which the former Greek international diverted to safety. Stand-in coach Božidar Bandović responded by introducing striker Kostas Mitroglou, and within four minutes the deadlock was broken as Torosidis charged in unchallenged from a central position to head in Zairi's clipped cross. Koeman threw men forward in a desperate attempt to level the match and Nikopolidis need to be at his best to save substitute Jeremain Lens's strike from distance.
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