FC PAOK Thessaloniki secured a slender 1-0 advantage over SK Slavia Praha in their UEFA Cup third round first-leg match at the Gipedo Toumbas stadium thanks to a goal from striker Giorgios Georgiadis.
No easy ride
Slavia had the better of the game, and PAOK coach Angelos Anastasiadis admitted that his team had been given far from an easy ride. "We had problems in the first 20 minutes," he said. "We managed to come back into the game in the second half though.
I'm happy that we managed to improve our performance.
'Good result for us'
"We were still making chances until the 75th minute," Anastasiadis added. "But we sat back in the final quarter of an hour and protected what has been a very good result for us. If we play like this in Prague in two weeks, we will qualify for the next round."
The visitors had started the brighter of the two teams, enjoying long spells of possession and threatening a vital away goal. However, they nearly undid their own good work on 21 minutes when defender Stepan Vachousek headed against his own post.
Despite this scare, Slavia continued to look the more threatening and it was down to PAOK goalkeeper Kyriakos Tohouroglou, consistently the home side's best performer, to thwart the visitors' best efforts. Richard Dostálek had the best of these, but he was twice foiled by the impressive Tohouroglou.
However, the hosts held out until the break, and came out a different side in the second half. Georgiadis, a Greek international, struck six minutes after the restart, converting right-footed from a tight angle.
The game remained open and both sides had their chances, but it was Georgiadis's strike partner, Yiannakis Okkas, who came closest to doubling the lead in added time. He had an excellent chance to put the Greek club firmly in the driving seat for the second leg, but Slavia goalkeeper Radek Cerny made an outstanding save.
Slavia still confident
Slavia, who currently lie second in the Czech championship, still feel that they have every chance of progressing through to the next round despite the defeat. "
I am not satisfied with the score," said Slavia coach Miroslav Beranek. "We tried to play attacking football here and score. But we will have the opportunity to win at home and get into the next round. PAOK are similar to FK Partizan [the team Slavia eliminated in the second round] but they have a better defence."