Reigning champions Greece maintained their winning start to their UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying campaign on Saturday with a hard-fought victory against Norway in a rain-soaked Athens.
Konstantinos Katsouranis's first-half volley gave Otto Rehhagel's side all three points in a tightly-contested Group C encounter which was delayed for 50 minutes after a thunderstorm drenched the pitch before kick-off. Stewards with brooms saved the day as they swept away the water and referee Ľuboš Micheľ gave the go-ahead.
Having begun their title defence with a 1-0 success in Moldova, Greece took on a Norway side with two wins to their name and dominated possession early on even with UEFA EURO 2004™ player of the tournament Theodoros Zagorakis dropped to the bench. Giourkas Seitaridis shot just over and Nikolaos Liberopoulos went close with a header, before Greece goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis was called into action to tip over Fredrik Strømstad's volley after John Arne Riise's free-kick was flicked on by Steffen Iversen.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær had two good chances for Norway within the space of five minutes, first firing wide then being dispossessed by Nikopolidis as the striker attempted to round the keeper. But it was Greece who opened the scoring, Katsouranis rifling in after Liberopoulos knocked down a Georgios Karagounis free-kick.
Stylianos Giannakopoulos was replaced by Angelos Charisteas at half-time as Rehhagel looked for more goals, but it was the visitors who could have levelled 12 minutes into the second half when Solskjær mis-kicked after good work by Morten Gamst Pedersen. Gradually the pace of the game diminished, although Norway coach Åge Hareide sent on Ole Martin Årst and Daniel Braaten late on.
Årst headed just wide in the last minute but the final opportunity fell to Greece substitute Ioannis Amanatidis who hit the post with a first-time strike from a Georgios Samaras cross. Greece, level on six points with Turkey and Norway - who have played a match more - go to Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday. Norway also face that nation in their next group game on 24 March.