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Giorgos Samaras had more than one reason to be relieved after ending his international scoring drought with the opening goal in Greece's 2-0 win against Croatia on Friday.
Having failed to find the target in Greece colours since a 2-1 victory against Austria in November 2010, Samaras put Greece in front in Piraeus with 19 minutes remaining. Fanis Gekas swiftly added a second to wrap up maximum points for the hosts, who are now two points ahead of Slaven Bilić's side at the Group F summit.
"There was, I would say, some 'nice' pressure placed on me by my team-mates during the training sessions leading up to this game," said Samaras. "They were telling me that this was the match that I have to score. There has been plenty of banter in the build-up and in the end I got the goal I wanted. But I don't see that as the most important factor, the way I see it is that I scored which helped the team achieve what we wanted to."
Gekas, meanwhile, struck after being out of the international setup for almost a year. He and the rest of Fernando Santos' squad now travel to Tbilisi to take on Georgia on Tuesday in the knowledge that a point will guarantee them a place at next summer's finals.
"It was a great and important victory for us, especially when you consider we were very nervous in the first half," Samaras told UEFA.com. "We managed to settle after a difficult start to the game and showed the best of ourselves in the second half. Now we need to concentrate hard for the match with Georgia so that the celebrations from this result do not go to waste. We are not celebrating qualification to the finals just yet."
Bilić's Croatia can still claim top spot should Greece slip up in in their final qualifier, so although striker Eduardo admitted that the team is downbeat, all is not lost. "We are of course very disappointed that we lost such an important game," he said.
“In the first half we were the better team but in the second half we lost our way and I think Greece played very well. We must now forget about this game and focus on our next match as we do still have the chance to qualify automatically."
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