Panathinaikos 1-0 FC Barcelona
Panathinaikos FC will take a 1-0 lead to the Camp Nou next week after a late penalty from Angelis Basinas secured a hard-fought home victory in their UEFA Champions League quarter-final first-leg encounter against FC Barcelona in Athens.
The 79th-minute penalty was all that separated the two sides at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium but Barcelona were aggrieved at the decision to award the spot-kick. Norwegian referee Terje Hauge was in no doubt, however, after Abelardo Fernández upended Joonas Kolkka. Despite the protests, Basinas calmly stepped up to stroke the ball to Roberto Bonano's left as the goalkeeper dived the other way.
Rivaldo on the bench
After a nervy opening on a rain-soaked pitch, it was always going to be a cagey affair. As a result, it had seemed either a set-piece or a moment of brilliance was going to decide matters. With Rivaldo starting on the bench for Barcelona and Panathinaikos's influential playmaker Giorgios Karagounis suspended, the odds were in favour of a free-kick or penalty separating the teams.
The first half was disappointing with Patrick Kluivert limited to speculative shots for the away side and midfield tussles dominating the action. Too often the ball was given away, and there was little to distinguish between the teams.
Rivaldo had arrived seven minutes before the goal and was immediately the brightest, most creative player on the pitch. The Brazilian playmaker had hoped to make the starting lineup but his ankle problem meant coach Carles Rexach was unwilling to risk him from the beginning. His appearance was inevitable in the frantic closing stages as Barcelona searched for a vital away goal.
A minute after his arrival, Rivaldo showed his brilliance. He jinked in from the right, steadied himself and then sent a curling shot towards the far corner. Panathinaikos goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis dived full-length and palmed the ball to safety, but the warning shot had been fired.
However, it was Panathinaikos rather than Barcelona that reacted to Rivaldo's magical play. Realising the extra threat posed by their opponents, Sergio Markarian's side stepped up their own attacking game. Kolkka, who had looked lively all night on the left-hand side but never in truly dangerous areas, finally made an incisive run into the penalty area eleven minutes from time.
Abelardo caught out
The Finland midfield player skipped past a challenge from Gabri García before finding himself in the clear. However, Abelardo, playing only his second game in this season's competition, was in determined mood and slid in to clear the ball. He achieved his objective but Kolkka was sent tumbling during the challenge, leaving referee Hauge to award the penalty.
Neither side created another clear-cut chance until a flash of inspiration from Rivaldo ten minutes later. He played a one-two with Thiago Motta, before firing in a fierce drive from 20 metres. Nikopolidis was equal to it again though, and helped the ball past the post.
Konstantinou shows his class
Basinas ultimately proved the hero but the success was built on a well-organised defensive display throughout the side. This was illustrated by an excellent showing from Michael Konstantinou. The Cypriot striker, with five goals in this season's competition, worked tirelessly in forward positions and came back to clog up the midfield whenever the likes of Philip Cocu and Marc Overmars tried to gain the upper hand.
Like Kolkka for Panathinaikos, Overmars had plenty of the ball on the left-hand side but all too often his attacks floundered when faced by Daniel Saric. The Dutch winger even switched flanks for a brief spell in the second half but this time found Panagiotis Fissas in his way.
Unbeaten at home
Panathinaikos will surely have to find the sort of form they have shown at home thus far in the competition, where they are unbeaten, if they are to protect their one-goal advantage in Spain and set up a semi-final showdown with either FC Bayern München or Real Madrid CF.