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Birthday boy Saviola delivers for Olympiacos

Published: Wednesday 11 December 2013, 7.43CET
Javier Saviola urged Olympiacos FC not to settle for just a last-16 spot after marking his 32nd birthday a few hours early with two goals as the Greek champions sealed progress.
by Vassiliki Papantonopoulou
from Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis

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Published: Wednesday 11 December 2013, 7.43CET

Birthday boy Saviola delivers for Olympiacos

Javier Saviola urged Olympiacos FC not to settle for just a last-16 spot after marking his 32nd birthday a few hours early with two goals as the Greek champions sealed progress.

Javier Saviola turns 32 today, but friends and family be warned: he has sorted out his own gifts.

The striker chose a perfect time to open his UEFA Champions League account with Olympiacos FC on Wednesday, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over RSC Anderlecht to seal a last-16 spot. Beaming, he spoke of an early "birthday present" while team-mate Diego Fuster drew up his own wish list for the next round: a tie against a team from his native Spain. Anderlecht goalkeeper Silvio Proto, meanwhile, took solace in saving two penalties in one match for the first time, even if his dimissal denied him a potential hat-trick.

Javier Saviola, Olympiacos forward
This is a beautiful night. I gave myself a birthday present with these two goals and the team got through to the next stage. We are all enjoying the moment, despite an intense match. At times we couldn't impose our game, but decisive matches are like that. Anderlecht caused quite a few problems, but all that matters is the result. We won, we qualified and we are happy.

Everybody is eager to do things right, to work for the team and to make the fans happy. Today was a beautiful, emotional day for me, because the Champions League is a prestigious competition and these goals were very important for my team. The next round will be tough. We must strive for the best, work hard and not just rest on the laurels of our qualifying for the knockout stages.

I don't have a preference over our next opponents. We are among the best 16 in Europe and anyone we get will be tough. It would be nice to return to the Camp Nou or Santiago Bernabéu for a European match in the next stage, but we all know what kinds of problems teams like those can pose. We are having a great season, but remain humble and will keep working at it. Hopefully we won't stop here and will keep winning for the remainder of the season.

Diego Fuster, Olympiacos midfielder
We are happy to be through to the knockout stages of the Champions League – it was very important for us to achieve that. We dedicate this success to our fans. In previous seasons we came close to qualifying and now we are through.

In decisive matches like this, you never know what will happen, especially coming up against a team that have nothing to gain or lose and are under no pressure. All the pressure was on our shoulders and that explains the nervousness, some missed passes and errors of judgment. But today it was all about getting the result, no matter how.

Now we will wait for our next rivals. I don't have any real preference, but being Spanish and with various Spanish teams in the competition, I would welcome the opportunity to travel to my homeland. Having said that, anybody in the last 16 will be very tough – our potential opponents are the top clubs in Europe.

Silvio Proto, Anderlecht goalkeeper
We are competitive sportsmen and we play to win. We were already eliminated but we must always give 100%. Conceding three penalties, though, there was little we could do. Never in my career have I saved two penalties in one match. It's a pity I wasn't on the pitch at the end, too: I know I could have saved the third as well, because I knew that [Alejandro Domínguez] would go for that corner. With a bit of luck I could have saved three penalties, but I was sent off.

I believe that the turning point for our European season was the match against Olympiacos in Belgium. We had so many chances but didn't take them, while they converted every chance they got, unfortunately. That match made our Champions League campaign much harder. Had we won then, we could have achieved more. Also losing our star player Matías Suárez to [long-term] injury was a blow.

Last updated: 11/12/13 18.36CET

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