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Olympiacos CFP moved a step closer to the UEFA Champions League's last 16 after coming from behind to beat S.S. Lazio in Rome.
Goals from Luciano Galletti and Darko Kovačević either side of half-time cancelled out Goran Pandev's strike on the half-hour. The result capped a resolute display by the visitors who fought back bravely and always looked in control once Galletti and half-time substitute Kovačević had turned the game around. A draw at home to Werder Bremen on Matchday 6 would seal their progress while Lazio must win away to Real Madrid CF.
Both teams began knowing that if Madrid avoided defeat at Werder Bremen, a victory would be enough to go through – though with a Matchday 6 trip to Madrid in prospect, the onus was very much on Lazio to deliver in front of their home fans. Delio Rossi had called for "warm hearts and cool heads" but the reverse was true in the opening exchanges as both Pandev and Ieroklis Stoltidis were caught by late challenges.
Uncertainty was the name of the game, with Olympiacos ceding possession in midfield while the Serie A side failed to take advantage on the break. Both Pandev and Stefano Mauri were unable to produce the final pass with the away defence on the back foot. A scrappy contest came to life on the half-hour, though, when Cristián Ledesma headed a long pass on to Tommaso Rocchi. The Lazio captain cut the ball back from the byline and Pandev slotted in from close range.
The setback stirred Panagiotis Lemonis's Greek title-holders into action and within five minutes they were level. Stoltidis, receiving possession from his left side, slid the ball to his right where the onrushing Galletti beat goalkeeper Marco Ballotta with a rasping 14-metre strike at his near post. At the other end, Antonios Nikopolidis was called upon to deny Pandev, and defy his 36 years, with an outstretched leg.
The veteran was also in the thick of things early in the second half, first diving bravely to paw a low centre away from Rocchi on 55 minutes, then, moments later, saving with his feet from Pandev after the latter had brilliantly controlled Massimo Mutarelli's searching pass. Against the run of play, however, Olympiacos took the lead. Stoltidis supplied Predrag Djordjević down the right and substitute Kovačević was first to his captain's low cross.
With Bremen ahead against Madrid, Lazio pushed forward but Rossi's men were largely reduced to set-pieces, with Guglielmo Stendardo sending two free-kicks over the bar. Indeed, if anyone looked like scoring again it was Olympiacos, who having waited 31 games to win on their travels in this competition, have now triumphed twice in three away trips. One more point and they will make the knockout rounds for the first time since 1999/2000. Lazio finished limply and face the ominous prospect of having to prevail in Madrid to extend their UEFA Champions League adventure.
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