AJ Auxerre progressed to the last 16 of the UEFA Cup with a single-goal victory against Panathinaikos FC at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium secured by a Bonaventure Kalou strike 18 minutes from time.
It was a tall order for the French team to triumph in Greece after the first leg had ended in double disappointment with a 0-0 scoreline and the dismissal of striker Olivier Kapo, who received a red card for violent conduct.
'Strong team spirit'
But they made amends in Athens with a determined defensive display that was applauded by coach Guy Roux. "
Our team spirit was very strong and the players were not influenced by the home crowd," he said. "Our defence was also a decisive factor."
The moment that mattered came as Kalou's shot slipped beneath the body of Panathinaikos goalkeeper Costas Chalkias. In contrast, and despite the encouragement of a packed stadium, the home team found it difficult to break down the French defence and found themselves chasing shadows as the visitors unleashed a series of dangerous counterattacks orchestrated by skipper Yann Lachuer and the fleet-footed Djibril Cissé.
"My players did well to pass the ball quickly," Roux said. "Panathinaikos were not the team we expected but we didn't play well either." For that he blamed the absence of key players on either side.
No goals conceded
Another game without the concession of a goal means that Auxerre have now played six matches in the competition and no opponent has been capable of breaching their defence. With a strong home record - before the Panathinaikos tie they had won both their home games - they will prove a tough proposition in the fourth round.
Poor at home
For Panathinaikos the defeat capped a sorry season of European football. They failed to make it past the group stage of the UEFA Champions League and with just one draw and three defeats at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium, it is their worst home showing for years.
Not good enough
Coach Itzhak Shum conceded his team didn't play well enough. "Naturally we're disappointed by the result," he said. "But we didn't create any chances."
The Israeli trainer also bemoaned the absence of key players, including in-form striker Dimitrios Papadopoulos as well as his side's busy schedule of four matches in eleven days. "
Our players were very tired, but of course that is no excuse. Injuries were also a problem but we've faced that problem all season."