By Paris Ayiomamitis
After soaking up the goal that gave Olympiacos CFP a 1-0 win over last season's UEFA Champions League finalists AS Monaco FC, Argentinian central defender Gabriel Schürrer has been soaking up the accolades in Athens.
The victory on 3 November put the Greek side on top of Group A and saw the 33-year-old defender rise even higher in the estimation of the club's fans and the Greek press. Already regarded as a titan in defence, he is now seen as a match-winner too.
His 84th-minute winner against Monaco also made up for a glaring miss on Matchday 1 that denied Olympiacos a 1-0 win at RC Deportivo La Coruña. "That's football for you," said Schürrer. "The goal I missed against Deportivo, I scored against Monaco."
While his arrival at Olympiacos in the summer was somewhat overshadowed by the arrival of Brazilian star Rivaldo, Athenian fans were already aware of his goalscoring ability - after all, it was his late effort for Real Sociedad de Fútbol last season that knocked Olympiacos out of the Champions League.
However, what has made him so popular at the club has been his ability to stabilise the defence. In four Champions League group stage games this season, Olympiacos have conceded just two goals - a record bettered only by Juventus FC, Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC.
Considering that Olympiacos have never previously conceded less than ten goals in a group stage campaign, it is an even more impressive statistic - as is the fact that their shut-out against Monaco saw them go three games without conceding a Champions League goal for the first time in their history.
Schürrer spent six seasons with Buenos Aires side Club Atlético Lanús before moving to Spain to join Real Racing Club de Santander in 1996. Two years later he joined Deportivo, and helped them win their first Spanish title before moving on to UD Las Palmas, and then Racing and finally Olympiacos.
His defensive partner Giorgios Anatolakis attributes much of this success to the former Deportivo and Real defender. "His experience in the Spanish league has helped us," said Anatolakis. "He knows how to position himself very well. He always guides my movement."
Few commentators have failed to notice how Anatolakis' own performances have improved since Schürrer's arrival. The veteran now has the confidence to hold the line while the Argentinian presses forward, and even provided the assist for Schürrer's goal against Monaco.
Olympiacos are now on the cusp of qualifying for the last 16 as they look forward to hosting Deportivo in Athens next week. Should they win and Liverpool FC overcome Monaco in the other game, they will qualify with a game to spare - a situation which coach Dusan Bajevic sees as ideal.
What I do not want is to see our fate decided in the last game at Liverpool," said the coach. "[Against Monaco] we won three valuable points against a good opponent, but we still haven't qualified. Three teams are in with a chance and we have to beat Deportivo."
If Schürrer can provide another late winning goal in Athens next week, it would doubtless be much appreciated.
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