By Fergus O'Shea at the Riazor stadium
Olympiakos CFP earned themselves a scoreless draw tonight in this UEFA Champions League Group A opener as last year's semi-finalists RC Deportivo La Coruña failed to break the visitors down. Despite controlling much of the possession and coming close on several occassions the Galicians were only able to collect a point against a highly organised Greek outfit.
Fran on the bench
Deportivo coach Javier Irureta, starting with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation, was forced to omit the injured Víctor Sánchez due to injury, with Pedro Munitis taking his place on the left wing. Captain Fran González, on his return from a calf injury, began on the bench but 35-year-old Maura Silva was still missing, as was Argentinian Aldo Duscher. Walter Pandiani spearheaded the attack, with Juan Carlos Valerón playing in his role as provider behind the attack.
For the Greek visitors Brazilian Giovanni joined Yiannis Okkas up front and the former world player of the year Rivaldo was on the right wing. Chances in the early stages were few and far between, but it was the visitors who looked the more likely to open the scoring.
Rivaldo was heavily involved with his deft passing and his talent for winning free-kicks, and when he missed narrowly with an overhead kick from the edge of the box on 14 minutes the Depor supporters let out an audible sigh of relief.
Three minutes later Olympiakos were on the attack again. A free-kick from Greek international Stylianos Venetidis was glanced on in the box by former FC Barcelona player Giovanni, but the outstretched Okkas was unable to finish the move off.
Deportivo's best chance of the first half came from a free-kick by Sergio González on 19 minutes. His cross from the left wing found central defender César Martín unmarked at the back post, but he was unable to direct his downward header on target. Just on half-time Albert Luque came close for the hosts after Valéron took a quick free-kick to send the winger free on the left flank. However, his low shot failed to trouble Antonios Nikopolidis in the Olympiacos goal and it went past the far post.
Neither side made any changes at the interval and the contest continued to be evenly matched, although it was the home team who came closest to scoring on 47 minutes. A low cross from Luque did not look likely to reach Pandiani at the far post, but when defender Gabriel Schurrer stumbled there was a chance, but the Uruguayan misjudged his run.
Possession was dominated by Deportivo from that point onwards, and although they pressed forward relentlessly they were unable to complete a sequence of passing with a realistic goalscoring opportunity. Olympiacos, although losing much of the coherency with which they played in the first half, defended admirably and broke forward whenever possible, but unlike in the first period Rivaldo was of less influence for the Greeks.
Fran was eventually brought on to a standing ovation on 70 minutes for winger Luque. The Galician side continued to seek that elusive winning goal but despite Portuguese central defender Jorge Andrade making some surging runs forward, Depor were forced to resort to long-distance shots, which to the disappointment of the the home fans failed to trouble the keeper significantly.