Panathinaikos FC took a precious UEFA Champions League third qualifying round lead back from AC Sparta Praha as Simão's strike on the hour gave the Greek visitors the edge.
Štěpán Kučera's own goal gave Panathinaikos a 24th-minute advantage and although Marek Kulič swiftly equalised, Mozambique international Simão ensured his side the lead in the tie ahead of the Athens return in a fortnight. It was Panathinaikos's third straight win in the Czech capital following their 2001 successes at SK Slavia Praha and Sparta.
Lead cancelled out
Last season's Czech runners-up had not conceded a goal in four games this term but that run ended when Giorgos Karagounis crossed from the right and Sparta goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik was beaten by a header from team-mate Kučera. That was a blow to Sparta's ambitions of ending a three-year exile from the UEFA Champions League group stage although within six minutes they were level when Miroslav Slepička eluded the visiting defence on the right and his cross was volleyed in by Kulič.
A surprise selection, the experienced Kulič came close to putting Sparta in front just past the interval but missed the target. Sparta were carving out few chances and fell behind ahead in the 60th minute as one of the visitors' swift counterattacks earned a corner and Simão turned the ball in. There was no response from Sparta this time and they now face a difficult task to turn the tie in Greece.