Olympiacos FC took a grip on second spot in UEFA Champions League Group C after Kostas Manolas's early header earned a vital 1-0 victory over SL Benfica in Piraeus.
Manolas rose unmarked to power in a 13th-minute header from a corner to put the hosts ahead against the run of play. Despite enjoying plenty of possession, Benfica could not find a way past their former goalkeeper Roberto who was in inspired form. The result moves Oympiacos onto seven points, three clear of third-placed Benfica but three behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain.
Olympiacos coach Míchel had warned his players of overconfidence following their rich vein of form domestically and on the continent, yet the Greek champions looked anything but in the early exchanges. Instead, the visitors were the more fluid and would have been two goals up in the first eight minutes if not for the reflexes of Roberto. The Spanish keeper first denied Óscar Cardozo with a low one-handed save before rushing off his line to block Lazar Marković's effort.
However, Benfica's promising start was ruined when, from the first corner of the match, Manolas climbed unchallenged to convert José Holebas's perfect set piece. The goal did not deter Jorge Jesus's charges, who carried on enjoying the lion's share of possession, though Luisão's header which flashed over the crossbar from a corner was their only attacking threat before half-time.
The second period began in the same fashion as the first, with Benfica on top and Roberto, who spent 2010/11 with the Eagles, keeping the home advantage intact. The Olympiacos custodian produced a brilliant stop to repel Marković, blocking the Benfica man's acrobatic volley with his legs when a goal seemed certain.
Javier Saviola, a peripheral figure against his former club, was replaced at half-time by Alejandro Domínguez as Michel sought to enrich the supply line to lone striker Kostas Mitroglou. However, it was Roberto who continued to play a starring role for the team in red and white, frustrating Benfica left-back Sílvio with yet another a fine save when the latter was sent through on goal.
By now Cardozo had limped off with a nasty-looking knee injury, but there was no let-up from the Lisbon side. Yet more heroics were needed from Roberto late on as he palmed away a shot from Benfica substitute Filip Djuričić – it spoke volumes that when the final whistle blew, the Olympiacos players ran straight to their keeper.