AJ Auxerre endured a frustrating night against Greek side Panathinaikos FC as they were held to a 0-0 draw in the home leg of their UEFA Cup third-round tie.
To compound the French side's problems, striker Olivier Kapo was sent off in the second half for violent conduct. Nevertheless, despite his team's underwhelming evening, coach Guy Roux was not overly agitated.
"We played well for an hour but could not score, but we have improved since our last league match [Saturday's draw, also 0-0, with SC Bastia]," said the Auxerre coach. "A goalless draw is still a good result to travel with to Greece. But Kapo's dismissal changed the flow of the match and made our jobs harder."
The Greek visitors lined up in a defensive formation, and looked from kick-off as if they would be satisfied with a draw. Polish international striker Emanuel Olisadebe was left on the subsitutes' bench, and Panathinaikos packed men behind the ball at every opportunity.
Auxerre had won both their previous home games in this competition – against Neuchâtel Xamax FC and FC Utrecht – and were yet to concede a goal in four previous European games this season. Roux's team extended the latter record, but were unable to break through their stubborn and well-organised visitors. In their 75th match in European competition, the French side largely dictated the pace of the game, but were denied time and space by their hard-working and durable opponents.
The pattern of the game continued into the second half, with clear goalscoring chances hard to come by. Auxerre's task was made even harder after Kapo's dismissal in the 66th minute, the striker being shown the red card following an incident involving Panathinaikos' Danish defender René Henriksen.
Despite their numerical advantage, Panathinaikos were still reluctant to commit more men forward in the final 20 minutes and the match petered out into a goalless draw that leaves next Wednesday's second leg in Athens delicately poised.
'We will qualify'
"Ahead of the match I had a lot of confidence in my team and now after the match
I think that we will qualify for the next round," said Panathinaikos coach Itzhak Shum. "My players have given a good performance in France today."