Panthinaikos FC all but booked their place in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals after convincingly beating RSC Anderlecht 3-0 in their fourth round first-leg match at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium in Athens.
Two goals from Polish international striker Emmanuel Olisadebe, either side of a towering Nikos Lyberopoulos header were a deserved reward for the hosts' dominance. "I'm very excited about the way we played today," said Olisadebe. "But my personal satisfaction derives from the performance of my team-mates. Nothing more, nothing less."
Sergio Markarian's side took control from the start, and immediately put the visitors under pressure. As early as the sixth minute, Lyberopoulos met an Angelos Basinas free-kick, only to send it straight at goalkeeper Daniel Zitka. On 12 minutes, the impressive Basinas again curled in a free-kick from deep on the left. Zitka came out and missed, but Lyberpoulos' angled header came back off the post. However, Olisadebe was the quickest to react, and tapped the ball in from two metres.
Denied by the post
The home side certainly deserved their lead, and should have doubled the score eight minutes later. Basinas beat his man on the right flank and curled a cross in from the by-line. Lyberopoulos mistimed his jump, but it fell to Joonas Kolkka, whose right-footed shot came back off the post.
Anderlecht did play their way back into the game as the half continued, with Walter Baseggio showing some clever touches. However, Antonios Nikopolidis was alert in goal, and Anderlecht strikers Seol Ki-Hyun and Nenad Jestrovic struggled to make an impression.
Kolkka continued to menace down the right, though, and Bertrand Crasson was booked on 33 minutes for felling the Finn after he had skipped past him. Baseggio then had a decent opportunity from a free-kick on the edge of the box, but sent it wastefully into the wall.
Anderlecht failed to improve after the break, despite coach Hugo Broos bringing on Olivier Doll for Aleksandar Ilic at half-time. The visitors continued to give away needless free-kicks, and struggled to test Nikopolidis at all. Then, on 63 minutes, things got worse as Olisadebe got to the by-line on the right and whipped in a fierce cross which Lyberpoulos headed firmly past a helpless Zitka at the far post.
Eight minutes later, Jan Michaelsen was picked out by a clever Olisadebe pass, only for his shot to be deflected narrowly wide by Zitka. The third finally came on 74 minutes, as Olisadebe exchanged passes with Kolkka, before side-footing the ball across the goalkeeper and into the net.
'Very good football'
For me, the UEFA Cup is over," said Broos. "Panathinaikos played very good football. We showed that we are not ready to take such a step." Markarian, though, refused to believe his side were through. "I think the tie is not over yet," he said. "Anderlecht will certainly be better in their home stadium. It is not the score that pleases me most, but the way my players performed."