Despite his side trailing 2-0 to Málaga CF ahead of Tuesday's UEFA Champions League play-off second leg, Panathinaikos FC defender Jean-Alain Boumsong told UEFA.com that the Greens have every reason to believe they can turn the tie around at the OAKA Spiros Louis Stadium.
In front of a passionate home crowd at La Rosaleda last Wednesday, Jesualdo Ferreira's men were outplayed for much of the first leg and eventually succumbed to first-half goals from Martín Demichelis and Eliseu. The visitors had their moments to reduce the arrears towards the end of the encounter, however, and it is on that basis that Boumsong insists the Greek side must look to build.
"You saw the opportunities we had in the closing stages of the game," the French international said. "Those chances will act as a source of optimism for us on Tuesday. Let's hope that we create more goalscoring moments at home, where we must also look to be more successful in executing our own game plan."
The former AJ Auxerre, Rangers FC, Newcastle United FC and Olympique Lyonnais centre-back revealed that the plan ahead of the first leg had been quite clear, and he blamed a lack of experience for the failure to carry it out. "We knew Málaga were going to try to make us run and to pull us out of position so I insisted on the fact that we had to be more aggressive," the 32-year-old said.
"In the end, we let them play too much and we shouldn't have done that. What the young players here will have learned is that at such a high level you must be prepared to start immediately; otherwise you will concede a goal. It was an important lesson."
Despite having lost their last three games at home to Spanish opposition – a run that includes a defeat by a Manuel Pellegrini-coached Villarreal CF in 2009 – Panathinaikos will take heart from the fact that they have twice overturned two-goal UEFA Champions League deficits in the past, eliminating AC Sparta Praha and Wisła Kraków from the competition.
The Cameroon-born Boumsong – now in his third season with the Greek Super League club – insisted that morale among his team-mates needs to be high if they are to achieve the feat of reaching the tournament's group stage for a tenth time.
"OK, Málaga deserved to win the first game, that was obvious," he said. "You could see that they really wanted it, perhaps even more than us. But it's important that our lads don't drop their heads because of the result. They saw that a gap exists between them and some other teams, but I wouldn't say that it is a very big gap.
"If it's 0-0 at half time, that's not so bad, but we mustn't concede a goal," he added. "If we are 1-0 up after an hour you never know, maybe we could snatch one towards the end to take the tie to extra time or even penalties. In any case, the most important thing for us is to score. If we manage that, let's see what happens afterwards."
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