R. Standard de Liège's first UEFA Champions League win proved to be worth the wait as the Belgian titleholders defeated Olympiacos FC at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne to revive their Group H qualification prospects.
Bottom on one point ahead of Matchday 4, László Bölöni's troops lifted themselves up a rung and within two points of second-placed Olympiacos thanks to Dieudonné Mbokani's coolly taken strike after 31 minutes and Milan Jovanović's late header. The first goal owed much to a defensive lapse, but Standard deserved it for their more enterprising approach in the opening half, even if they did creep dangerously back into their shells to protect their slender advantage after the restart. They will look to continue their renaissance at Arsenal FC on 24 November, when their Greek rivals will attempt to bounce back at AZ Alkmaar.
The visitors lined up with five at the back and, with Standard lacking the requisite quality to find a way through, the first 25 minutes were more notable for some committed tackling than any goalscoring chances. Finally, with 27 minutes gone, the hosts put together a fluid move. Igor De Camargo started things off in midfield by freeing Mehdi Carcela-González on the right, and the 20-year-old slipped a pass through to Jovanović, whose cutback was scooped over by Mbokani.
That one moment sent volts of energy through what had been an uneventful encounter and moments later goalkeeper Sinan Bolat almost palmed a lofted Enzo Maresca pass into the feet of Raúl Bravo. It was Standard who made the breakthrough, though, Mbokani holding off Avraam Papadopoulos and shooting low beyond Antonis Nikopolidis after Olof Mellberg had let Eliaquim Mangala's hopeful long ball pass him by. With the crowd in raptures, Les Rouches sought to capitalise and the gifted Carcela-González volleyed a superb arcing effort on to the bar from 25 metres after controlling with his chest.
Jovanović then fired wide, with Olympiacos going closest through an off-target Kostas Mitroglou attempt but handed a major blow when Argentinian schemer Luciano Galletti was forced out of the fray through injury three minutes before the interval. The response from Zico's men after the break was to attack in greater numbers, and they gave the locals a fright when Maresca sent a diving header too high.
With a new intensity to their play, Greece's champions threatened again as Mellberg volleyed a Maresca free-kick straight at Bolat from in front of goal. How Standard trainer Bölöni must have wished his charges had the luxury of a second goal on the scoreboard, yet instead of striving to secure the points they became encamped in their own half, a tactic that had allowed Arsenal FC to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win on Matchday 1.
Indeed, given the pressure his side were under, Mangala ought to have done better when he headed a corner wide from point-blank range. It was not to prove costly, though, as Jovanović nodded in the rebound two minutes from time after Mbokani's shot had been saved by Nikopolidis.