By Paris Ayiomamatis in Athens
Juventus FC confirmed their status as UEFA Champions League contenders in Athens as they came from behind to earn a 2-1 win at Greek title-holders Olympiacos CFP.
It was Pavel Nedved, so influential in helping Juventus reach last season's final - only to miss out in Manchester through suspension - who was the main man again as he scored both the Italian champions' goals after they fell behind to a strike from Ieroklis Stoltidis.
Home coach Oleh Protasov fielded an attacking lineup, surprisingly opting for 19-year-old midfield player Nery Alberto Castillo and leaving influential international Giorgios Georgiadis on the bench. His gamble paid off as Olympiacos dominated the first half with a wave of attacks that unsettled the Juventus defence.
Olympiacos had the first chance of the match in the fifth minute when a Stylianos Venetidis shot from outside the penalty area was blocked by Gianluigi Buffon. A minute later Giovanni was brought down on the edge of the area, but Predrag Djordjevic's resulting free-kick was blocked.
Marshalled by the excellent Christian Karembeu in midfield, the home team always looked the more dangerous side. And they deservedly went in front when Stoltidis connected with a Karembeu cross to head the ball past Buffon.
Juve draw level
After the goal Olympiacos kept up the pressure. The Piraeus team almost made it 2-0 five minutes later but Castillo failed to push the ball past Buffon after a Dimitrios Mavrogenidis cross. But just when Juventus were struggling to make an impact, Czech Republic international Nedved struck with a blistering free-kick to level the scores on 21 minutes. It was Juve's first real chance of the half.
Home side keep attacking
However, the goal did not sap Olympiacos's attacking game, led by the elusive Castillo. Olympiacos persevered and came close again on 25 minutes, but debutant defender Anastasios Pantos's shot from the edge of the penalty box failed to trouble Buffon.
Pantos found space again in the 35th minute, but his shot from inside the area was deflected. Olympiacos nearly regained the lead on the stroke of half-time but Karembeu could not turn in a swerving free-kick from Djordjevic.
The interval did not blunt Olympiacos's attacking drive and Juve were saved a minute into the second half by Buffon’s left post, which was struck by Djordevic's low drive. Nedved responded a minute later but there was nobody to latch on to his cross in the Olympiacos box. Olympiacos were irresistible, pushing forward under the leadership of their Serbo-Montenegrin captain Djordjevic, who shot just wide on 52 minutes.
Juventus coach Marcello Lippi responded after 55 minutes, sending on forward Fabrizzio Miccoli to replace the rather quiet Marco Di Vaio. Lippi’s move worked to perfection for the Italian visitors, who began to nudge the action into the Olympiacos half. Protasov reacted in the 65th minute by replacing Mavrogenidis and Giovanni with midfield players Takis Gonias and Georgiadis, but the match was slipping from his side's grasp.
Juventus were now the team on the advance and 12 minutes from the end, Nedved produced the winner with a magnificent swerving effort from outside the area that underlined his status as one of Europe's most exciting talents - and his team's rating as world-class.