A late penalty earned Czech Republic champions FC Slovan Liberec a 2-2 draw at home to Greek side Panathinaikos FC in a thrilling UEFA Cup third round first-leg encounter at the U Nisy stadium.
Pegged back twice
Panathinaikos looked set to continue their run of positive results against sides from the Czech Republic, having beaten both AC Sparta Praha and SK Slavia Praha last season, but were pegged back twice in the final moments of each half through Martin Zboncák and Samuel Slovák.
Slovan were without the hero of their penalty shoot-out hero from the second-round win against English first division side Ipswich Town FC, goalkeeper Antonín Kinský, who was injured. And it was from the penalty spot that the visitors took the lead on 13 minutes when midfield player Emmanuel Olisadebe was brought down in the area by Petr Johana. Panathinaikos captain Angelos Basinas made no mistake from the resulting spot-kick.
Gyan offers hope
The home side looked short of attacking ideas for most of the first half, with only Ghanaian international striker Baffour Gyan offering any form of threat, through his pace and trickery, but it looked as if Slovan would go into the break a goal down.
Lubomír Blaha should have equalised in the 42nd minute, but the striker somehow put a free header, following a Slovák corner, over the crossbar from close range. However, as the game entered first-half added time Baffour Gyan found the unmarked Zboncák in the penalty area and the midfield player calmly drove the ball into the goal.
Panathinaikos back in front
Zboncák came close to adding another home goal just after the interval, only to see his header, following a Tomás Zápotocný´s centre, hit the crossbar. The miss only seemed to spur Panathinaikos who were back in the lead on 53 minutes as Olisadebe deflected a Basinas free-kick into the goal.
Hauzr stays sharp
Slovan poured forward after that in search of another equaliser, but were left exposed to a number of counterattacks. They were thankful to the sharpness of goalkeeper Zbynek Hauzr who made two excellent saves from Olisadebe and striker Nikos Lyberopoulos.
Slovan finally got their reward in the 85th minute when substitute Jan Nezmar went down under a Giannis Goumas in the area, and it was left to the influential Slovák to cooly convert from the penalty spot.
'Nothing is decided'
After the game Panathinaikos coach, Sergio Markarian, refused to admit that the advantage in this tie now rests with his side. "
Both sides played well and the draw is a fair result," he said. "We made mistakes in the middle of the pitch, where Slovan are very strong. Nothing is decided yet."
Meanwhile the Paraguayan's opposite number, Ladislav Skorpil, felt the key to tonight's outcome was Slovan's inability to take their chances at the start of each period. "
Instead of making clear opportunities count we conceded goals," he said. However, the Slovan coach did reserve praise for goalkeeper Zbynek, saying: "He kept us in it when we played high-risk football in the final five minutes."