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An early goal from Takis Fyssas was enough for Panathinaikos FC to advance to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup with a 1-0 win over FC Slovan Liberec at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium which secured a 3-2 aggregate success.
A storming start from the hosts saw defender Fyssas lash the ball into the net just two minutes into the game after Zbynek Hauzr could only parry a Yiannis Goumas header. Liberec thereby became Panathinaikos's third Czech victims in their last two seasons after the Greek side knocked both SK Slavia Praha and AC Sparta Praha out of last season's UEFA Champions League.
Liberec dominate possession
Liberec dominated possession as they went in search of an equaliser but a 35th-minute collision between forward Samuel Slovak and goalkeeper Antonis Nikopolidis was the closest they came to levelling matters. A flying header from Martin Zboncák also forced a smart save from Nikopolidis with 20 minutes remaining but it was a rare sight of goal for the visitors.
Hosts the likelier
The Czech champions even threw on all three substitutes in a bid to change the course of the tie but it was the hosts who always looked more likely to score again. Indeed, the Athens side should have doubled their advantage in the 77th minute but Nikos Liberopoulos blasted wide when well placed.
Vlaovic goes close
Panathinaikos substitute Goran Vlaovic nearly scored with his first touch but his shot rebounded off team-mate Emmanuel Olisadebe. In the end it did not matter though, as Panathinaikos remain extended their unbeaten run in European and domestic football which now stretches back to 15 September.
'Very difficult game'
"It was a very difficult game for us against a team that does not let you play," said Panathinaikos coach Sergio Makarian after the game. "They press so hard, they are very disciplined and their physical condition is excellent.
The final result was fair. It was very difficult to bypass their defence. I am satisfied with my players' efforts and with the fact that we did not concede any goals."
Meanwhile, Liberec coach Ladislav Škorpil was understandably disappointed. "The result of the first game gave us some hope," he said. "
Sadly for us our plans went down the drain though because Panathinaikos managed to score in the second minute. Even then we still believed we could get a result. In the end though we lacked the finishing power."
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