Olympiacos CFP produced an impressive display to tame Chelsea FC and earn a scoreless draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie.
Panagiotis Lemonis's men refused to be overawed by their English opponents on their first appearance in the knockout stage since reaching the quarter-finals in 1998/99 – enjoying the lion's share of possession and chances in a closely contested encounter. Chelsea's Avram Grant, however, will be the happier of the two coaches after his team kept a clean sheet to occupy the driving seat going into the return leg at Stamford Bridge on 5 March.
Terry and Lampard out
Grant, who had urged caution before the match, sprang a surprise by leaving captain John Terry and midfield talisman Frank Lampard on the bench, while African Cup of Nations returnees Michael Essien and Didier Drogba started. On the evidence of the early exchanges the visitors were not holding back, however, with Essien trying his luck after 30 seconds, his shot drifting just wide of the right post.
Olympiacos, backed by deafening and frenzied support, responded. After Luciano Galletti's strike was blocked by Claude Makelele, Ieroklis Stoltidis surged on to Predrag Djordjević's pass but opted to cross when a shot looked the better option and his centre was cut out by Ricardo Carvalho. Chelsea saw a lot of the ball during a tentative first half, while Olympiacos looked dangerous on the counterattack. The first effort on target, though, arrived with Florent Malouda's snapshot – saved by Antonios Nikopolidis – after 16 minutes. Nikopolidis was again in the right place five minutes later to keep out Carvalho's downward header.
Stoltidis, who had scored twice in the Greek title-holders' 3-0 win over Werder Bremen on Matchday 6, then had Chelsea hearts fluttering when his near-post header zipped just past the left post on the half-hour. At the other end Drogba, who seemed to be struggling with a right hamstring problem, saw a speculative attempt saved comfortably by Nikopolidis as the home goal came under increasing pressure.
The quick-slow tempo of what was becoming an absorbing contest continued after the break. Olympiacos had the first sight of goal five minutes into the half when Stoltidis's left-wing cross just evaded the head of the onrushing Galletti. Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium, however, and it appeared that a speculative strike or dead-ball situation would be the only route to a goal.
Right on cue, Djordjević tested Petr Čech for the first time in the game with a well-struck shot which the Chelsea keeper saved low at his right post. Then, on 65 minutes, Galletti volleyed narrowly over from another left wing-cross by Stoltidis as the hosts searched for the breakthrough. Chelsea were finding it hard to make inroads in attack, with Malouda's effort from distance on 70 minutes being their sole second-half attempt at that point. Grant brought on Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka for the last 15 minutes, yet neither could make an impression with the Londoners seemingly content with a draw.